Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2016 and active through through 23 July 2020, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella Community School and UBC’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program are partnered in an effort to collaboratively create new opportunities for speaking, writing and reading the Heiltsuk language (Híɫzaqv/Háiɫzaqv) by expanding and deepening existing community language revitalization and cultural documentation in a digital environment.

The partnership brought together students, staff and faculty in Vancouver and Bella Bella by providing spaces to productively combine academic and community goals.

A revised MOU is currently in development with the Haiɫzaqvḷa Authority Board.

Origins of Language Documentation & Revitalization in the Heiltsuk Nation

Heiltsuk community members have been engaged in language research and documentation for many decades. The Heiltsuk Nation initiated extensive language research and documentation in 1973.

The Bella Bella Community School instituted Heiltsuk Language Instruction as a formal part of school curriculum in 1978, and has focused on curriculum development, Heiltsuk Language teacher certification and the pursuit of effective language teaching strategies, and will directly benefit from mobilization of extensive Heiltsuk language research into the digital world.

Through its Heiltsuk Language Studies program, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre seeks to continue to support the documentation and revitalization of the Heiltsuk language, and has assisted in creating and compiling extensive resources, with a focus on the following areas:

  1. Developing a practical orthography (alphabet) for writing down the Heiltsuk language;
  2. Recording and analyzing words in order to produce comprehensive word lists, bilingual dictionaries, and taxonomies;
  3. Analyzing and identifying the basic structure of the Heiltsuk language;
  4. Recording an extensive body of oral traditions, narratives, and discourses, and transcribing and translating these into English;
  5. Assisting and promoting the understanding and interpretation of Heiltsuk culture through linguistic analysis of information recorded or transmitted in Heiltsuk;
  6. Promoting and assisting in the development of Heiltsuk language instruction programs;
  7. Maximizing use of available and emerging technologies to promote the preservation of and access to Heiltsuk language materials.

Current Project Team

  • Frances Brown (Heiltsuk Language Coordinator, Bella Bella)
  • Michelle Brown (Heiltsuk Language Program Coordinator, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Pam Brown (Curator Emerita, Pacific Northwest, Museum of Anthropology & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Bryan Burdick (Software Developer, Heiltsuk community member)
  • Jennifer Carpenter (Culture & Heritage Manager, Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department; Director, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella)
  • Bridget Chase (UBC alumnus)
  • Benjamin Chung (UBC alumnus)
  • Janice Gladish (formerly Principal, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Annie Guerin (UBC alumnus)
  • Shirl Hall (Artist and Community Member)
  • Rory Housty (formerly Resource Centre & Research Assistant, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella, now Heiltsuk Language Program, Waglisla Adult Learning Centre/Heiltsuk College, Bella Bella)
  • Robyn Humchitt (Resource Assistant & Digitization Technician, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella)
  • Rex Slett (formerly Language and Culture Special Project Liaison, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre: now High School Librarian & Teaching Assistant, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Chester Lawson (Elder, retired educator & teacher, Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief)
  • Kim Lawson (Reference Librarian, X̱wi7x̱wa Library, UBC & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Maria Martin (UBC Student and Heiltsuk community member)
  • Gerry Lawson (Coordinator, Oral History and Language Lab, MOA & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Lisa Nathan (Associate Professor at UBC iSchool (Library, Archival and Information Studies)
  • Angie Peers (Teacher, Heiltsuk Native Language Program, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Aidan Pine (App / Web Developer, UBC Alumnus)
  • Aly Reid (Heiltsuk Native Language Program, Bella Bella Community School; UBC alumnus and Heiltsuk community member)
  • Sheila Reid (UBC alumnus and Heiltsuk community member)
  • Connie Tallio (Teacher & Resource Coordinator, Heiltsuk Native Language Program, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Mark Turin (Associate Professor of Anthropology, First Nations & Endangered Languages Program & Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, UBC)
  • Elizabeth Wilson (UBC alumnus, Language Teacher and Heiltsuk community member)

Technical Resources

Use is made of publications, manuscripts and feedback by John C. Rath, for many years the resident linguist of Bella Bella, BC.

HCEC Website Update

Through our collaborative partnership with Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, we have supported the transition from a legacy HTML site to a WordPress site for the Centre’s official homepage. The website can be found here.


The Heiltsuk Language Mobilization Partnership team are grateful to various funding sources for their support, including but not limited to: UBC’s Hampton Fund’s Established Scholar Award, the Remote Community Based Learning Fund at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, the Office of the Dean (Faculty of Arts) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).


Please browse through this website to download the Híɫzaqv Unicode keyboard, to search the Híɫzaqv Digital Dictionary and for project updates. We are grateful to members of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella and beyond, for sharing their knowledge and for their invitation to work in respectful partnership in their traditional territories.