Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8)


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As the demand for furs increased, the prices set by Indian traders skyrocketed in the years after Cook's initial voyage. Just as the influx of gold, silver, and other goods from the New World had transformed the European economy in the 16th century, Native economies in the Pacific Northwest were transformed by contact with European colonialism and capitalism.

At first, the region's Native peoples used European imports within the context of their own economies, saving up trade goods for later potlatches, and bartering for iron tools and ornaments that had preexisting purposes in their societies document 13 and document But over the course of a few decades, the economies of coastal peoples began to center around the production of furs for export. For example, the Indian people who handed the furs over the sides of European boats were not the same people who went hunting for sea otters, or even the same people who prepared the pelts for trade.

Yet because these coastal traders were the first to receive compensation for the furs, they began to organize the production of furs and to compete with other traders for the resources of the hunters and pelt-curers.

The Globe and Mail

This reorientation toward the export of raw materials laid the groundwork for future extractive industries that would come to characterize the economy of the Pacific Northwest. The sea otter trade restructured Native economies, but it impacted whites' economic practices as well. European and American traders had to change their methods to comply with Native norms, because Indians set the terms of the fur trade—both in terms of method and price as the skyrocketing price of furs indicated. European traders wanted to come to the coast, rapidly take on a full cargo of furs, and depart just as quickly to China, where they could exchange the precious furs for a cargo of silk, tea, and spices before returning to Europe or America.

The Indian peoples of the Northwest Coast preferred to trade in the context of an elaborate and more slow-moving establishment of social relations. They often refused to trade substantial quantities of furs unless the European merchants came ashore to their villages, where a celebration of eating, drinking, dancing, and singing ensued. These ceremonies sometimes stretched on over weeks and months, and many European traders were forced to spend the winter on the coast in order to collect enough furs to fill their cargo holds.


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Indian fur traders also quickly learned that Spanish, English, American, and Dutch merchants competed with one another. Indian traders played these groups off one another, encouraging competition until they had obtained the highest possible price for their furs. As Europeans and Indians lived together in Nootka Sound and elsewhere in the Northwest, their political activities and hierarchies became intertwined.

The infamous Nootka Controversy demonstrated the extent to which Europeans and Indians had become invested in each other's lives.

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In late , British, American, and Spanish vessels met in Nootka Sound—much to the frustration of the Spanish, who claimed sole possession of the Northwest Coast. Douglas protested and argued that because his ship was funded by Portuguese interests, it was therefore nominally Portuguese.

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He also claimed falsely that he had only sought refuge in Nootka Sound to repair his ship. After spending a week under arrest, he was allowed to leave the sound. These events disturbed Maquinna, Wickeninish, and other aboriginal leaders who were allies of the English. Sighting other English vessels approaching Nootka Sound, Chief Maquinna sent out canoes to warn the approaching traders that trouble was afoot with the Spanish. The warnings fell on deaf ears, and the hotheaded James Colnett sailed his ship directly into the sound. Some English sailors were allowed to go ashore, and these men complained to Maquinna that the Spanish had no right to prevent the British from trading at Nootka.

Although he missed, one of his crew did not. Callicum fell dead in front of his wife, child, and dozens of European and Native witnesses. Maquinna and his followers responded by withdrawing inland and refusing further contact with the Europeans for many months. The Spanish claimed the right of first possession, based on the Bodega-Hezeta Expedition's building of crosses in The English, citing Spain's tardy publication of these claims, claimed the right of first possession based on buildings constructed onshore by John Meares in document Ultimately, the issue was decided by military strength.

England had a strong navy and so did its ally, Holland. But when the Spanish turned to their traditional ally, France, they were disappointed. French revolutionaries, inspired by the rhetoric of the American Revolution, were in no mood to help the Spanish monarch defend his colonial claims. By it became clear that Spain had to risk a naval conflict, which it had almost no hope of winning, or accept a diplomatic settlement dictated by the English.

This settlement, known as the Nootka Convention, stated that Spain was to turn over to England all lands bought and occupied by Meares. After the location of these lands had been determined, a line would be drawn between lands that were in the sole possession of the Spanish and lands that were open to both nations. In order to enforce the settlement decided by the Nootka Convention in , representatives of England and Spain met at Nootka Sound in Nonetheless, the two men had difficulty reaching an agreement since the terms of the Nootka Convention were ambiguous, partly because so much of the region's geography remained unknown.

In addition, Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra heard conflicting reports about recent events from Nuu-chah-nulth and American traders who had been eyewitnesses.


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  7. For example, Maquinna denied selling any land to Meares at all. Furthermore, Bodega y Quadra wanted to establish a clear boundary between Spanish and English claims, but Vancouver thought the Nootka Convention did not grant him the power to negotiate permanent borders document 24 and document But instead of arguing, these men spent their time dining on each other's ships and being entertained in Nuu-chah-nulth villages. The two captains also agreed to explore the region further and to share their geographic knowledge with each other. Their explorations filled in many of the blank spaces on Europeans' maps document 22 and document Bodega y Quadra and his party circumnavigated Vancouver Island, proving that it was not part of the mainland—as many previous explorers had thought.

    Vancouver's crew charted the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the interior waterways connected to it.

    His expedition demonstrated that the strait led to the Puget Sound, not to some mythical Northwest Passage. Because Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra shared information, both parties learned that Puget Sound could be a fantastic harbor for large ships. It became apparent that Nootka Sound was not the only good port north of San Francisco and that Nootka's strategic significance had been overrated.

    Bodega y Quadra subsequently turned the Spanish fort at Nootka over to the English. He moved his men south to Neah Bay to establish a fort signifying the northernmost edge of Spain's possessions. Although this fort lasted only a few months, it was the first European settlement in the area that would become the State of Washington. Even though Bodega y Quadra and Vancouver did not resolve the Nootka Controversy themselves, they established the friendly relations and acquired the geographic knowledge that made a final settlement possible.

    After the Nootka Controversy concluded, Nootka Sound gradually became less and less important to explorers, diplomats, and traders from Europe and the United States. Spanish and English negotiators ended their disagreement by signing the Second Nootka Convention in This agreement granted the Spanish sovereignty over the coastline south of Neah Bay. Areas to the north, including Nootka Sound, remained free ports where ships from all nations could land.

    Substantial numbers of European and American traders continued to visit Nootka until , when violence erupted along the sound. The crew of the American ship Boston killed several Nuu-chah-nulth people, and its captain repeatedly insulted Chief Maquinna. The chief and his followers responded by boarding the Boston and killing its crew, sparing only two men, John Thompson and John Jewitt. Thompson and Jewitt lived as Maquinna's captives until , when another American ship negotiated their release document 27 and document The attack on the Boston made merchants extremely wary of landing at Nootka.

    Though trading did resume after Maquinna released Thompson and Jewitt, the trade was never again as vigorous as it had been in the late 18th century.

    Nootka Sound was once the most important place in the known Northwest, but today it is far removed from the economic centers of the region, and it is accessible only by boat or airplane. After the Nootka Controversy, the main area of contact between Indians and Europeans moved to the south, centering on the mouth of the Columbia River. After Gray publicized his findings, many American traders began visiting the region around the Columbia. Even though English captains had initiated the maritime fur trade in the Northwest, the English became distracted by their military struggle with France after Napoleon's ascension to power during the late s.

    Although the Spanish remained an occasional presence on the Northwest Coast, they, too, were distracted by domestic affairs and only dabbled in the fur trade.

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    Thus, American traders came to dominate the maritime fur trade between and Americans concentrated on trading and generally stayed out of the political struggles among European nations. Both the Spanish and the English were willing to overlook Americans' presence in the Northwest, and the Americans capitalized on this neglect. In fact, they were so successful in the trade—and Northwest Coast Indians were such skilled hunters—that the sea otter was nearly extinct in the region by the first decade of the 19th century.

    The maritime fur trade was only a short chapter in the history of the Northwest, and it gradually became supplanted by the land-based fur trade. Inspired by the overland voyages of Alexander MacKenzie, who became the first person to cross North America by land in , and Lewis and Clark, who reached the mouth of the Columbia in , overland fur traders began to look with interest at the Pacific Northwest.

    Fur-bearing land mammals, such as beavers and bears, were abundant in this region. During the first and second decades of the 19th century, the Canadian-based North West Company became the area's most powerful fur trading enterprise by establishing a network of trading posts throughout the interior of the Northwest. Seeking a foothold in the fur trade, John Jacob Astor, an American entrepreneur, established a trading company headquartered in what is now Astoria, Oregon. Established in , the company functioned for only a short time because Astor sold out to the North West Company after the War of Though Astor's operation was short-lived, the overland trade in furs was just beginning.

    In the North West Company merged with its rival, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the resulting combination dominated the economy of the Northwest for the next 25 years. As the overland fur trade replaced the maritime trade, the nature of the relations between Native and European peoples began to change somewhat.

    Not surprisingly, Indians and whites had learned from their early experiences with each other along the Northwest Coast, and their later relationships built on those forged in the early years of contact. Although episodes of violence periodically strained these relationships, the overland fur trade continued the generally peaceful patterns of interaction established during the maritime fur trade.

    However, the advent of land-based trading ensured that Europeans and Americans were no longer mere visitors who bought furs and soon returned home: land-based traders often lived in the Northwest for decades at a time.

    The Globe and Mail

    The permanence of their presence brought new twists to the relationships established with Native peoples. These ways of living together persisted until the late s, when the establishment of the Oregon Trail and the arrival of American settlers shattered the world made by the fur trade and opened a new chapter in the history of the Northwest. Indians and Europeans on the Northwest Coast: Historical Context The history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the Pacific Northwest is in many ways a story of convergence.

    Imagining The legend of the Northwest Passage particularly enthralled Europeans. Living Together The Indian people of the Northwest Coast and the European travelers to this region both came from materially acquisitive, trade-oriented cultures, and they quickly discovered this common ground.

    Hunting whales in the north out of skin boats is also a dangerous endeavour, and people have often been killed. I imagine the same thing happened while hunting mammoths. You would have these stories of epic mammoth hunts, who died and who lived, and these stories would have been passed down for thousands of years. Take us inside that adventure and what it told you about the first arrivals.

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    Did you get dressed up in furs and carry a spear? No, I decided that if I dressed up in furs and carried a spear, I would have probably died. Once we got up there, we clicked in the skis, put our gear on a sled, and headed across the ice. In one sense, it told me that this is the worst way to do it. Humans have often done ridiculous things! Being out there on the ice I thought this is maybe where the crazy people went, the ones who were looking to fall off the edge of the Earth.

    At the same time, as we climbed the mountain ranges sticking up through the ice, I could see how you could have hopped your way from one summit to the next down the entire length of the ice sheet to arrive in the rest of North America.

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    Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8) Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8)
    Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8) Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8)
    Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8) Farther Up the Strait (Coastal British Columbia Stories Book 8)
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