World spotlight on Bella Bella as Heiltsuk Nation Welcomes Royal Visit

(Bella Bella, September 24, 2016) – On Monday, September 26th, the Heiltsuk Nation will host the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Bella Bella as part of their upcoming royal tour to Canada.

“We are honoured to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to our traditional territories,” says Chief Marilyn Slett.  “The Royal visit provides an opportunity for the Royal family, Canadians and the world to learn about the Heiltsuk Nation and the beautiful place we call home.”

During their visit, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will witness a plaque unveiling to officially endorse the Great Bear Rainforest under The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, an initiative recognizing indigenous forests in 53 Commonwealth countries and promoting forest conservation.

“We are greatly honoured to be in the world spotlight with this recognition of our work to protect our lands, waters and resources,” says Chief Slett. “The Heiltsuk Nation is working hard to build a better future for our people. We call our process Hailcistut – turning something around to make it right again.”

The Duke and Duchess will be welcomed with a traditional greeting, cultural presentations and an aerial tour of the Great Bear Rainforest. Head Hereditary Chief Woyala – the third generation to meet the Royal family – will be bearing a Royal Staff gifted to his great-grandfather from Queen Victoria.

Heiltsuk leaders and community members are also looking forward to welcoming Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Chief Slett.  “The Minister’s presence here is particularly significant because of the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation.”

The Heiltsuk are engaged in reconciliation talks with Canada.  “It is a complex process that will restore lands, economic self-sufficiency, and political jurisdiction to the Heiltsuk.  Reconciliation also means the development of a respectful and just relationship between the Heiltsuk and Canada,” says the Chief.

Events during the Royal Visit:

  • The Duke and Duchess and guests will be greeted in a traditional welcoming ceremony to Heiltsuk Territory.
  • The Duke and Duchess, along with two members of the Heiltsuk Nation, will go on a short aerial tour of the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • The Great Bear will be officially endorsed by the Duke and Duchess under The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy Initiative.
  • Hereditary Chiefs will present Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould  with a mask for Prime Minister Trudeau  carved by Heiltsuk artist Ian Reid. The gift will be presented in a ceremony during which Heiltsuk Hemas (Hereditary Chiefs) will blow air into the mask to give it life.

For more information:

Jo Anne Walton
Media Relations
Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Background on Heiltsuk Traditional Territory

  • The present-day Heiltsuk are the main descendants of Hailhzaqvla-speaking peoples and identify as being from one or more of five tribal groups: Wuyalitx, ‘Qvuqvayaitxv, Wuilitxv, Yisdaitxv and Xixis. Heiltsuk population is 2,414. Almost 50 per cent of the population lives outside of Bella Bella.
  • Our Traditional Territory encompasses 35,553 square kilometers. It extends from the southern tip of Calvert Island, up Dean and Burke Channels as far as Kimsquit and the head of Dean Inlet to the northeast, and up the Mathieson and Finlayson Channels to the north.
  • Our people practice a system of governance based on hereditary chieftainship that has been continuous since pre-contact through the present. The Heiltsuk governing body is comprised of elected Chief & Council, who make decisions in collaboration with the Hemas (hereditary Chiefs).
  • For the past decade the Heiltsuk, along with other coastal First Nations, have strengthened the connections between our community, our environment, and our economy. We remain steadfast in our conviction that the environment shouldn’t be sacrificed to build a healthy coastal economy.
  • The Heiltsuk Nation has led the way in Land Use Planning and Marine Use Planning. Land and marine use planning are important for asserting our rights and community values on developments within Heiltsuk traditional territory.

Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest, originally established in 2006, covers 6.4 million hectares on British Columbia’s north and central coast. It is the Traditional Territories of 26 separate First Nations – of which the Heiltsuk Nation is one.

The Great Bear Rainforest represents one of the last, largest tracts of intact coastal temperate rainforest on Earth. It’s interconnected land and marine ecosystems are home to towering old growth rainforest, fin, humpback and killer whales, giant grizzlies and black bears and all five species of Pacific salmon.

Unique species found nowhere else on earth include rare white Spirit bears and Pacific coastal wolves that have adapted to hunt for salmon in the sea.