People of the Coast

The Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative is a unique alliance of nine distinct First Nations working together: To protect our coast and improve the quality of life in our communities.

Our member nations include Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation.

Traditional Territories

Our communities occupy the Northern and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii areas of BC – reaching north to the Alaskan border and as far south as Vancouver Island. This region is the unceded Traditional Territories of more than two dozen First Nations.

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about CFN member nations


Wuikinuxv people have lived on BC’s Central Coast since time immemorial. They have a rich cultural history and special connection to land and sea. Ceremonies were central to Wuikinuxv spirituality, usually surrounding seasonal harvesting of land and sea resources. Wuikinuxv Territory covers almost 7,000 square kilometers of land and more than 200 square kilometers of sea. The Territory is home to deep temperate forested valleys, glacial peaks of the Pacific Coast Range Mountains, and a large network of lakes.


Located at the south end of Graham Island of Haida Gwaii, Skidegate’s strong cultural life includes food gathering, traditional potlatch ceremonies, and song and dance. Haida art is world-renowned and Skidegate Nation is gradually replacing resource extraction jobs with ecotourism and cultural-related employment. Descendants of a rich Haida heritage, Skidegate residents are members of clans with their own chiefs, crests, stories and histories.

Old Massett

Old Massett is located on Graham Island’s north shore, the largest and most northern island of Haida Gwaii. It is home to Xaada families who once lived in villages spread throughout their territory. Five dialects of Xaad Kil languages are still spoken by residents. Haida people have sustained a rich culture closely connected to land and sea. Their territory is home to giant old growth cedar, spruce and hemlock, rare bird colonies, abundant sea life, and 1,068 salmon populations.


The Nuxalk live in Bella Coola, some 400 kilometres northwest of Vancouver at the mouth of the Bella Coola River. Nuxalk Nation is a mixture of many villages that were distributed throughout kulhulmcilh (our land). Nuxalk Ancestral Territory covers a land base of about 18,000 square kilometers as well as ocean areas. Their Ancestral Territory includes large watersheds, rivers and deep rainforest valleys and fjords.


Just north of Prince Rupert on BC’s North Coast, Metlakatla village sits on an ancient site. Metlakatla people have occupied and used the resources of the Skeena watershed, the Tsimpsean Peninsula and offshore islands, Work Channel, Portland Inlet and coastal areas around Prince Rupert for thousands of years. Community members continue to harvest land and sea resources for traditional foods and ceremonial activities. These include eulachon, salmon, clams, seaweed, octopus and medicinal and food plants.


Kitasoo and Xaixais people live in the village of Klemtu on Swindle Island on the Central Coast. They are two distinct tribal organizations – the Kitasoo originally from Kitasu Bay and the Xai’xais from Kynoc Inlet. Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Territory covers land and sea, totalling 3,939 square kilometres. Their territory is bordered by windswept island groups and narrow channels on its west coast. Deep valleys, long fjords and Pacific Coast Range Mountains are found in the east. Their territory is home to the Spirit Bear Conservancy.


The Heiltsuk are the main descendents of Hailhzaqvla-speaking peoples. Hailhzaqvla remains a living language expressing the Heiltsuk worldview and way of life. Heiltsuk Territory encompasses 16, 658 square kilometres of land. Archeological excavations have revealed ancient village remains dating back 11,500 years. Its boundaries are defined by six Heiltsuk tribal groups and extend into national waters. The Heiltsuk have had a relationship with these rich lands and waters for countless generations.


Since the beginning of time, the Gitga’at people have lived in their Territory of about 7,500 square kilometres of land and water on the Northwest Coast. The home community of Hartley Bay lies about 90 miles southeast of Prince Rupert, where Grenville and Douglas Channels meet. The Gitga’at are members of the Tsimshian cultural group, a matrilineal society. Salmon, halibut and cedar are resources central to Gitga’at culture and way of life.

Council of the Haida Nation

For millennia, Haida people have occupied their Traditional Territory of Haida Gwaii, a group of more than 200 islands based 100 kilometres off BC’s north coast. This territory encompasses parts of southern Alaska, the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and its surrounding waters. It is home to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, the first national park co-managed by a First Nation and the federal government. The Haida Nation has also negotiated recognition and protection of Haida interests and cultural practices on its Traditional Territory.