Bella Bella, formerly known as Waglisla, is a small but vibrant coastal community in the beautiful and remote area now referred to as the Central Coast of British Columbia, in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Bella Bella is the home of the Heiltsuk First Nation.
Our community of approximately 1,500 residents is a contemporary town with modern facilities and amenities. We are distinguished, however, by deep roots in our history, our culture, and our environment.
Despite our location on the famed Inside Passage, Bella Bella is remote and isolated. Because of the distance to all major urban centres - and even from other villages on the coast - Bella Bella is largely independent and self-contained. Travel is possible, however, on scheduled flights from our airport and via ferry from the BC Ferries terminal at McLoughlin Bay. Learn more about getting to Bella Bella or see a map of the area!
Bella Bella boasts a number of community and independent economic ventures, including a large grocery/general store, two mini-marts, a liquor store, fuel services, a restaurant, a bar, an RCMP police station, and of course the Koeye Café and community library.
Medical services include a hospital, clinic, dentist, and pharmacy. Our independent community school serves K-12 students while the Heiltsuk College offers a variety of courses for students upgrading their high school credits, pursuing short trades courses, or preparing for post-secondary education away from the community. Individual proprietors offer bed & breakfast accommodation and taxi services. In addition, Heiltsuk economic ventures are now evolving to include activities like sustainable ecotourism.
However, like many First Nations communities, Bella Bella is faced with serious challenges that threaten our prosperity, our culture, and our way of life. The collapse of the salmon fishery has undermined one of the oldest occupations in Heiltsuk history. Heavy industry like logging and mining no longer seems profitable or sustainable. Consequently, unemployment is high and attendant social problems are ongoing concerns. Bella Bella is addressing this situation by seeking to develop new, sustainable ventures through the Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation that will provide jobs while preserving our traditional values and way of life.
With the promises of modern white society having gone largely unfulfilled, our community has engaged itself in a dynamic and energetic cultural revival. We are swiftly repairing the lapse in our traditional knowledge, language, and cultural activities left in the wake of missionaries and residential schools. Cultural revival projects in Bella Bella include the building of a community bighouse, regular singing practices at the singers' house (a replica scale bighouse), a growing collection of traditional canoes, a language nest for young children (Sasum House), and a strong cultural program in our school.
As a modern First Nations community, we strive to exist positively in two worlds. We seek to take advantage of regular transportation, a broad range of educational opportunities, and emerging job sectors while upholding traditional values and the cultural legacy that has kept our nation strong for millennia.
Learn about the History of Bella Bella on the next page!