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· An Important Heiltsuk Site
· Remote Places: Ocean Falls
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An Important Heiltsuk Site
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"Ocean Falls" is a translation of the Heiltsuk name for the head of what is now called Cousins Inlet. According to the late Heiltsuk elder and historian Gordon Reid Sr., 'Tuxvnaq means "big sea, out in the ocean" and refers to the wave breaking over a big rock in the middle of the falls coming out of the lake at the head of the inlet. He was responsible for the original mill owners’ adopting the English translation of the Heiltsuk name for this location.

This has been an important resource site for the Heiltsuk for many generations, and it has a rich and complex history. A mountain at the head of the inlet could be one mentioned in a story recorded by Franz Boas as told by Andrew Wallace. It is part of a larger summary of Heiltsuk traditions of the origin of the world and successive transformations.

"Some people had been saved when the world was burned. They increased again in numbers and after some time there were people everywhere. Next the flood came. Some people knew that the water was going to rise and that the mountains were going to be covered. The waters were rising for four days. Then two mountains Q!ā ๎gฺ̣ămē ๎ and  ๎mE'nsg̣EmxḶē ๎ were living near Bella Bella. The waters had almost covered Q!ā ๎gฺ̣ămē ๎. . . . Then  ๎mE'nsg̣EmxḶē ๎ took a mass of rock and threw it at Q!ā ๎gฺ̣ămē ๎ in order to make him higher. Thus Q!ā ๎gฺ̣ămē ๎ was saved as well as the people who had taken refuge on these mountains . . . . Finally the waters subsided. (Bella Bella Tales [1932], 2)"

Andrew Wallace said that "the rocks hurled by  ๎mE'nsg̣EmxḶē ๎ may still be seen at the top of Q!ā ๎gฺ̣ămē ๎ which rises over a terrace."

Ocean Falls continues to be culturally and economically important for the Heiltsuk Nation. Heiltsuk people worked at the pulp mill when it was operating there. Heiltsuk oral traditions are that the original mill owners promised compensation (fruit and meat in return for losing prime hunting and berry-picking areas when the lake was dammed) and consideration for agreeing to successively move out of the way of the developing pulp mill (jobs, etc.). Heiltsuk never abandoned use, occupancy and ancestral ties to this important area. Many families in Bella Bella have ancestral ties to the extensive Heiltsuk settlements in Cousins Inlet. This rich history is being further documented by Heiltsuk historians.

An Important Heiltsuk Site -