In Heiltsuk, one month is called m̓ṇ́ǧṃs n̓úsí. N̓úsí is the word for “month” or “moon”. Following the phases of the moon is one of the oldest methods of keeping track of the progression of time throughout the year. The names assigned to the months by the Heiltsuk reflect their seasonal activities and seasonal weather and meteorological conditions. For the Heiltsuk, these names have changed slightly over time reflecting modifications in lifestyles and seasonal activities. The most recent set of names, presented here, were prepared by the Yílístis Society in 1978, with further explanation by Beatrice Brown, Hannah Hall, Evelyn Windsor, and Clarence Martin. All accompanying audio is of Marina Humchitt and originally sourced from Conversational Heiltsuk II: A Day in Bella Bella. All photography taken and provided by Jennifer Carpenter.
Names for the Months in 1835
In 1835, William Fraser Tolmie, a physician and fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort McLoughlin in McLoughlin Bay (our Old Town) recorded the following:“names of the Moons – Haeeltzuk”
December | Chyquileel | Sun returns to N.
January | Nygunachgshych
February | Neequnach | Sea water turbid
March | Tsooashascum | Herring spawn
April | Shincunagh | Bark stripping begins
May | Tilwunagh | Bark beaten for bklt making
June | Skeetlunagh | Salmon Spearing begins
July | Gooltzimmi | Salmon taken in the weirs
August | Youkuscumalah | Rainy Moon
September | Gooltzimmior | Salmon
October | Youkuscumalah
November | Nolacumich* | Porcupines copulate
December | Nanaloshlukageila | Goats
Source: Physician and Fur Trader, Mitchell Press Ltd. Vancouver: 1963, p.318.
*In the Haisla language, which is closely related to Heiltsuk, n̓ilaǧṃi means “oldest brother or sister”, or “porcupine” (the first animal created, according to legend).
January | no laslaqag ila | wants to be older than December
February | xai kuliɫa | all the food in house gone
March | qwau q!unx sa | sprouting
April | q!amE l no | fish come out of (moon)
Source: Bella Bella notes 1923, film 372, reel 1, Boas Collection of American Indian Linguistics, American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia, P. 1.