The first British ship on the NW Coast.


Captain James Cook
Monday, March 30th 1778. Captain James Cook, and his crew sailed his ship Resolution for the first time into Nootka Sound.

Nootka Chief Maquinna
Monday, March 30th 1778. Upon seeing Cook's ship, Chief Maquinna told his people "to go out ... and try to understand what these people wanted and what they are after."

On that day Cook wrote in his log:

"A great many canoes filled with the Natives were about the ships all day, and a trade commenced betwixt us and them, which was carried on with the Strictest honisty on boath sides. Their articles were the Skins of various animals, such as Bears, Wolfs, Foxes, Dear, Rackoons, Polecats, Martins and in particular the Sea Beaver, the same as is found on the coast of Kamtchatka."

On the bicentenial...

With these words written on March 30, 1778, Cook unknowingly signaled the end of isolation for the West Coast (Nootka) people and the beginning of direct European influence on their life-style. When Cook's ships reached Macao late in 1779, the ragged remnants of the Nootka Sound sea-otter pelts sold for over $10,000, and soon American and English ships were making annual trips to the Northwest Coast in search of "Sea Beaver" pelts. ---- Barbara J. Moon 1978.

The beauty of the welcoming ...

"... in the evening, several of the larger Canoes saluted us, by making a Circuit around the ships and giving 3 Halloos at their departure. They paddle in most excellent time, the foremost man every 3rd or 4th Stroke making flourishes with his paddle. the halloo is a single note in which they all join, swelling it out in the middle and letting the sound die away. in a Calm with the hills around us, it had an effect infinitely superior to what might be imagined from any thing so simple." --- James Burney wrote, March 30, 1778

... and they all joined in a song.

"The greatest number of the Canoes remained in a cluster around us til ten O'clock, & as they had no arms, & appeared very friendly, we did not care how long they staid to entertain themselves, & perhaps us: a man repeated a few words in tune, & regulated the meaning by beating against the Canoe sides, after which they all joined in a song, that was by no means unpleasant to the Ear.

A young man with a remarkable soft effeminate voice after ward sung by himself, but he ended so suddenly & unexpectedly, which being accompanied by a peculiar gesture, made us all laugh, & he finding that we were not ill pleased repeated his song several times.

As they were now very attentive & quiet in list'ning to their diversions, we judg'd they might like our musick, & we ordered the Fife & drum to lay a tune; these were the only people we had seen that ever paid the smallest attention to those or any of our musical Instruments, if we except the drum, & that only I suppose from its noise & resemblance to their own drums; they observed the profoundest silence, & we were sorry that the dark hindered our seeing the effect of this musick on their countenances.

Not to be outdone in politeness they gave us another song, & we then entertained them with French horns, to which they were equally attentive, but have us no more songs in return, & soon after went away, excepting a few boats that kept paddling around us all that night which was a very cold one." --- From the journal of Lieut. James King, 1778

James Cook's account of the Nootka welcoming ceremony.

"A considerable number of the Natives visited us daily and every now and then saw new faces. On their first coming they generally went through a singular ceremony they would paddle with all their strength quite round both Ships, A Chief or other principal person standing up with a Spear, or some other Weapon in his hand and speaking, or rather halloaing all the time, sometimes this person would have his face covered with a mask , either that of the human face or some animal, and some times in stead of a weapon would hold in his hand a rattle. After making the Circuit of the ships they would come along side and begin to trade without further ceremony. Very often indeed they would first give us a song in which all joined with a very agreeable harmony." ---- Halpern and Duke, 1978 from the Journal of James Cook.


Oral tradition among the Nootka holds...

When Cook's ships came into the outer harbor, the local Indians, known ultimately as the Nootka, did not understand what the strange vessels were. The chief sent his warriors in canoes to investigate. Oral tradition among the Nootka holds that they spied one sailor with a hooked nose and another who was a hunchback and identified them in turn with the dog salmon and the humpback salmon, an indication of their fish-like origins. Consequently, they thought Cook's ship to be "a fish come alive into people". The Nootka grew cautious.

But the chief "told them to go out there again ... and try to understand what those people wanted and what they were after." They did so and Cook's crew gave them pilot biscuits. The Nootka started saying to each other that the Whites must be friendly and that they, in turn, should welcome the White strangers. They gestured, all the while telling Captain Cook "Nootka, Itchme Nootka, Itchme" - meaning "you go around the harbor." The inhabitants seemed proud and sure, supremely confident in the greatness of their own civilization. They were friendly to their guests.

The Nootka were forward people. After they learned that the English would not harm them they showed no fear or distrust. As many as 32 canoes filled with Indians had surround the ships immediately; and 10 to 12 canoes stayed with the Resolution most of the night. Cook's first impression of the Nootka, one that lasted for only two days, was that they were mild and inoffensive, quick to trade, and strictly honest in the process.

However, the Indians soon trespassed on the English manners and customs - they laid aside all restraint, mingled freely with the Whites on the ship's decks, and began helping themselves to the ships iron articles. Once they stole a 20 or 30 pound fish-hooks used for fishing the anchor; on another occasions, they stole Cook's gold watch from his cabin while under guard. Many items, including the valued timepiece, were returned, not voluntarily, buy by force. Cook learned that the Indians were willing to impeach one another, and thus it became easy to identify the thieves. The British grew alert against "their thievish tricks."

Cook and his men, perhaps too trusting in the first place, now took appropriate precautions to stop the light-fingered tendencies of persons who considered property not personal but communal in nature, and theft a matter of dexterity and even sport. ---- Barry M. Gough, 1978

"Fair" dealings between alien cultures.

"In general in their dealings with us they acted in a fair part tho' they made no scruple of stealing when they opportunity offered; but upon being detected they would immediately return whatever they had taken and laugh in our faces, as they considered it as a piece of Dexterity that did them credit rather than dishonor." ---- Samwell; in Cooks journal III, pt.2 pg 1100


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