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Pauline "Hilistis" Waterfall

Oil on Canvas, 28 x 36, 1984
Pauline Waterfall, Hilistis
1944-
Educator, Artist, Author
Heiltsuk (Bella Bella)

Pauline "Hilistis" Waterfall
  • From Bella Bella, British Columbia.
  • Descended from many chieftans.
  • Named to the Order of B.C.
  • Married to John Waterfall, an ex-RCMP officer, commercial pilot and commercial fisherman.

“My culture is fascinating to me now that I’m at this stage in my life. I think the thing that fascinates me about my people is that they are so innovative. They adjusted so readily and they cope so well.” - Pauline Waterfall, Hilistis

"If we don’t say it, who will? As keepers of the knowledge, it is our responsibility to share what has been passed on to us. Lessons learned are gifts and we have the responsibility to share these in order to teach about living in harmony, balance and respect with each other and with nature and its biodiversity." - Pauline Waterfall, Hilistis


Pauline Waterfall from the Heiltsuk Nation at Bella Bella is committed to uphold her ancestral name, Hilistis, which means “starting a journey, staying on course to completion and coming full circle.” Following her grandparents’ and parents’ paths into residential school, Waterfall experienced alienation and teachers who belittled her abilities and potential. Yet her quest for education led her to complete Grade 12 in Vancouver and Bachelor of Education (N.I.T.E.P) from UBC in 1991. She returned to her community and was the founder of Heiltsuk College, serving as its Executive Director for 35 years. She serves as executive on the governing board of the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) and the Mid-Coast First Nations Training Society. She was a founding member of the Bella Bella School Board when it assumed control of local education in 1976, fulfilling her dream of having youth to attend school year-round in their own community after many generations of displacement. Although recently retired, she continues to participate in conversation, community health needs, cultural revitalization, language revitalization and post-secondary education initiatives. Waterfall documents traditional land stewardship roles and responsibilities, authoring several papers and contributing to many articles and books as a Heiltsuk cultural knowledge keeper and teacher. Many of her projects and initiatives focus on improving First Nations’ access to and success in post-secondary education, bringing her love for culturally-appropriate education to a new generation.

For more information about First Nations in B.C., resources available at UBC, or information about these individuals, visit the Resources section.

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