Bella Coola, B.C. Gnar Segment from “Into the Mind”

Miles Clark |

Sherpa Cinemas takes us on a spectacular visual tour of Bella Coola, B.C.  The skiing in this segment is great, but the scenery steals the show.  We think they meant it this way.

Bella Coola is a special place on Earth and it’s not too far away from the civilized world.  British Columbia in general is unreal and completely untapped.

bella coola ski map
Map of Bella Coola, B.C.


The Nuxalk people were present in the Bella Coola valley prior to any formal written history of the area. This is confirmed both by oral history that continues unbroken to present day, and by written history of some of the first European explorers of the area.

In 1793, Alexander MacKenzie arrived from the east, completing the first recorded crossing of the continent north of Mexico.

Immigration (non-Nuxalk) to the region was sporadic and often temporary for the next century. A Hudson’s Bay fur trading post was set up at the mouth of the river (the land granted to the post forms the off-Reserve portion of the present-day “townsite”), and a handful of farmers were granted land further up the valley. The trading trails of the Nuxalk and neighbouring nations became a popular route from the Pacific Ocean to central British Columbia, particularly during the Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s. In the 1870s the valley was surveyed as a potential Pacific terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Burrard Inlet was the eventual choice, its selection giving birth to the city of Vancouver).

In the 1890s, a group of Norwegian Lutheran settlers were given land grants in the valley, after their previously-existing community in Minnesota suffered an internal conflict. The land they were granted, as well as other land previously granted to individuals was, in many cases, land that had been occupied by Nuxalk communities only a few decades (or less) earlier. However, a smallpox epidemic had decimated the Nuxalk population, and the survivors had, for the most part, gathered on land close to the mouth of the river (and close to the Hudson’s Bay post). The Norwegian settlement was named Hagensborg and remains one of the main communities of the Bella Coola Valley. Although much of the Norwegian colony’s population did migrate away, others stayed to work in forestry and in the development of the fishing industry. The cannery at Tallheo, across the arm from Bella Coola, was founded by a Norwegian settler who had given up on farming in the area.

These two populations (Norwegian settlers and Nuxalk), in varying proportions, continued to make up the vast majority of the community’s population for most of the next century. However, in recent years, the Norwegian population (or connection to a Norwegian identity) has declined. In 2001, 43% of the population reported “Aboriginal identity”, of which the vast majority is Nuxalk, while only 10% reported Norwegian (or Norwegian-Canadian) to be their “Ethnic Origin”.

When the community of Ocean Falls suffered a massive population decline in 1980/81, due to the closure of the town’s primary industry (a paper mill), Bella Coola became the administrative centre for British Columbia’s central coast. This led to the relocation of the Central Coast Regional District (which, up until that time had been called the “Ocean Falls Regional District”) offices to Bella Coola, and a general centralization of government services such as provincial government regional centres (e.g. Ministry of Forests) in Bella Coola. – wikipedia


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