Friday, July 29, 2011

Jay on Protection Island

This is me in 1986, dressed up for a silly picture to pass the time on Protection Island during my youth. I spent every summer, all summer, on this island from the time I was four years old until the government took our family's property away in the creation of the federal wildlife refuge.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Nimpkish River

In July of 1792, when Captain George Vancouver visited what is now called Broughton Strait, he encountered the people of the 'Namgis First Nation:

The next morning showed the village in our neighborhood to be large; and, from the number of our visitors, it appeared to be very populous....

The Ty-eie, or chief of the village, paid us an early visit, and received from me some presents which highly delighted him. I understood his name to be Cheslakees. He acknowledged Maquinna to be a greater chief; as he also did Wicananish; but, so far as I could learn, he did not consider himself to be under the authority of either. On inquiring if Maquinna was at the village, he answered in the negative, saying they seldom visited; and that it was a journey of four days across the land to Nootka sound, which from hence towards the S. S. W. is about twenty leagues distant.

Accompanied by some of the officers, Mr. Menzies, and our new guest Cheslakees, I repaired to the village, and found it pleasantly situated on a sloping hill, above the banks of a fine fresh water rivulet, discharging itself into a small creek or cove. It was exposed to a southern aspect, whilst higher hills beyond, covered with lofty pines, sheltered it completely from the northern winds. The houses, in number thirty-four, were arranged in regular streets; the larger ones were the habitations of the principal people, who had them decorated with paintings and other ornaments, forming various figures, apparently the rude designs of fancy; though it is by no means improbable, they might annex some meaning to the figures they described, too remote, or hieroglyphical, for our comprehension. The house of our leader Cheslakees was distinguished by three rafters of stout timber raised above the roof, according to the architecture of Nootka, though much inferior to those I had there seen in point of size; the whole, from the opposite side of the creek, presented a very picturesque appearance....

At the conclusion of this visit we were entertained at the house of an elderly chief, to whom Cheslakees, and every other person paid much respect, with a song by no means unmelodious, though the performance of it was rendered excessively savage, by the uncouth gestures, and rude actions accompanying it, similar to the representations I had before seen at Nootka. The song being finished, we were each presented with a strip of sea-otter skin; the distributions of which occupied some time. After this ceremony a song from the ladies was expected; and during this interval, I observed in the hands of the numerous tribe that now surrounded us, many spears pointed with iron, clubs, large knives, and other weapons with which they were not furnished on our first approach to the village. I was not altogether satisfied with this change in their appearance, though I had every reason to believe their intentions were of the most inoffensive nature, and that it was most probable they had thus produced their arms to shew their wealth, and impress us with an idea of their consequence; I deemed it, however, most advisable to withdraw; and having distributed the few remaining articles we had reserved, Cheslakees was informed I was about to return; on which he, with his relations who had attended us through the village, accompanied us to the sandy island, whither I went to observe its latitude.

Some few others of the Indians attended us on this occasion, whose behavior being orderly and civil, they were permitted to assemble round me whilst observing. They were excessively amused with the effect of the sun's rays through the reading glass; and the extraordinary quality of the quicksilver used for the purpose of an artificial horizon, afforded them the greatest entertainment, until our business was ended, when they in a very friendly manner took leave, and confirmed me in the opinion, that the martial appearance they had assumed, was purely the effect of ostentation.

- Captain George Vancouver, quoted from Vancouver's Discovery of Puget Sound by Edmond S. Meany, 1907.

In The Last Killiney, Paul is attacked by a First Nations party near the site of Vancouver's meeting with Cheslakees.

Cheslakee's Reception

The village was called Xwalkw. Its location on the northern shore of the mouth of the Nimpkish River, or Gwa'ni, was along an important overland route between the First Nations groups of the Inside Passage and Nootka Sound, where most Europeans went to trade for sea-otter furs. Because this was a well traveled route, it was not a member of Cheslakees' village that attacked Paul. Instead, men from elsewhere were responsible, probably having heard of Vancouver's ship passing through the area and thinking that Paul was capable of repairing muskets. That's why no one in Xwalkw knew about Paul's death, or appeared hostile in the slightest when Vancouver went ashore.

Here's how the village would have looked when Vancouver visited, as portrayed by Jonathan Sykes, one of the voyage's midshipmen: