ETHNONYMS: Elkbasumh, Heiltsuk, Milbank Sound Indians, Northern Kwakiutl
The Bellabella are a Kwakiutl-speaking group related to the Southern Kwakiutl and the Nootka, neighboring groups to the south. The Bellabella live on the coast of British Columbia in the area from Rivers Inlet to Douglas Channel The name "Bellabella" is an Indian rendering of the English word Milbank, taken back into English. The Bellabella numbered about three hundred in 1901 and number about twelve hundred today. Bellabella, along with Nootka and Kwakwala, form the Wakashan linguistic family. The Bellabella were Divided into two distinct dialect groups—the Haisla, including the Kitamat and Kitlope; and the Heiltsuk, including the Bellabella proper (with the Kohaitk, Oealitk, and Oetlitk), the Nohuntsitk, Somehulitk, and Wikeno. The Xaihais may have constituted a third linguistic division.
The Bellabella were visited by explorers and traders Beginning in the late 1700s, with a Hudson's Bay Company post established in 1833. The traders were soon followed by Protestant missionaries and settlers, leading to rapid assimilation and the disappearance of much of the traditional Culture. Because of the rapid assimilation and resistance to intrusions by researchers, little is known about the traditional culture. From what is known, however, they were evidently quite similar to the Southern Kwakiutl.
Olson, Ronald (1954). Social Life of the Owikeno Kwakiutl. University of California Anthropological Records 14, 169-200. Berkeley.