Biography: Chris Nelson, whose Nuxalk name “Xawisus” means “copper” or “metallic sky,” has been offering tours of the petroglyphs for over 15 years. Chris and his identical twin brother Lance are well-known cultural leaders in their community, and in Nuxalk culture twins are very special because they represent the salmon, the lifeblood of coastal peoples.
Chris and Lance asked to learn their traditional dances as young children, and have expanded their cultural knowledge ever since, learning their language and serving their community through their work as teachers in the local schools and assuming lead roles in cultural events such as potlatches, weddings, and funerals.
Visitors on Chris’s tours are often left speechless and there is good reason for it. Central to Chris’s tours is his spiritual presence; the ability to weave together all beliefs, spiritualities, and cultures in the same never-ending cycle. His breadth of cultural knowledge is only surpassed by his innate ability to connect with people: he never gives the same tour twice.
“I like to remind people that the earth is alway changing, will always be changing,” he shares. “But these carvings, these sacred spaces, they are here to remind us of why we’re here; to keep an open mind to all walks of life and to give and receive knowledge from one another.”
Chris is currently offering Petroglyph Tours, Totem Tours, and Big Cedar Tours. A key member of the Copper Sun team, Chris maintains that his favourite part, and the most important part of the tour, is the introduction.
“The introduction tells the story of the Nuxalk people, right from creation through to smallpox and the potlatch ban, to today,” explains Chris. “The reason I give these tours is so that I can tell the world who Nuxalk people are through our eyes, I don’t have to worry about others telling our history for us.”
Biography: Clyde Young is a talented artist from the Mack family of the Nuxalk Nation. He has lived in Bella Coola most of his life and began his career with Copper Sun Journeys in 2015.
Passionate about Nuxalk culture, stories and songs, Clyde offers both Petroglyph and Totem Tours, as well as tours of the Big Cedars in Snootli. Clyde holds a large breadth of knowledge of the Nuxalk culture, learned through varied activities such as carving and talking to elders, as well as his own studies of Nuxalk literature.
For Clyde, the tours offer a chance for visitors to experience a time when Nuxalk culture existed “in its purity.” He feels the experience offered by sacred sites such as the petroglyphs is “direct, physical, and tangible,” something that appeals to everyone. Clyde is committed to being present and engaged with every tour, and shares that visitors appreciate the non-commercial nature of Copper Sun Journeys.
“The feedback I’ve received is that people are happy with our tours because it’s an authentic experience,” said Clyde. “It’s a genuine way for people to understand our origin stories, where we came from and who we are today.”
There is little doubt that Bella Coola is a magical place, and the chance to experience some of the precious gems of Nuxalk history is not lost on its guides.
“It’s like walking in an ancient dream,” Clyde shares. “I always tell people Bella Coola isn’t just a place you live, it lives in you too. There’s a sacredness to this Valley, every place has a story, and there are still surprises waiting to be discovered, even for us.”