1904: Riot at Nootka, and echoes of Sir James Douglas!

Settler readers understood the Chinuk Wawa argument reported below without translation…


The barkentine Makaweli (image credit: FineArtAmerica)

…and they knew the symbolic importance both of the name Maquinna and of Sir James Douglas’s old gift.

It was also common at the time to hear news of ongoing Nuučaan’uɬ assertions of sovereignty.

Queen City, which arrived from the West Coast [of Vancouver Island, BC] yesterday afternoon, brought news of a riot at Nootka. At the instance of some sealers [Settler ship captains], the provincial police officer at Clayoquot essayed the arrest of Maquinna, a nephew of the chief of the Nootkas, of the same name, and Nootka Harry, 2 Indians who were charged with being deserters. The Indians had signed on sealing Schooners last spring for the entire season, but had refused to make the cruise to the Behring Sea when the Schooners on which they had shipped were ready to sail. On the last trip of Queen City the Captain of one of the Schooners from which desertions had taken place, went to Nootka, accompanied by Provincial Constable McDougall, of Clayoquot.

On landing from the boat of Queen City on the beach at Nootka, the Constable at once went to the Indian village and told Maquinna and Harry that he wanted them to accompany him to the skookum house [skúkum-háws (‘strong-house’) ‘prison’]. But they objected. Then there were things doing. It was this way.

When the Constable tried to make the arrest, the tribe assembled and objected. The spokesman asked the officer if he knew the rank of the man he wanted to arrest. The officer replied that he thought so. Then the tribe thought it necessary to make a showing.

Many years ago Sir James Douglas gave one of the forbears of the present chief of the Nootkas a uniform with 3 rows of brass buttons. This uniform is considered a ‘delate hyas klosh ikta‘ [dlét hayas-ɬúsh íkta ‘really very-good possession’] by the Siwashes [sáwásh ‘Indian’], and it was trotted out. Maquinna, the deserter, encased in the uniform and he seemed very proud. The Constable, however, said the “uniform didn’t cut any ice with him” and stepped forward to arrest Maquinna. Then there was an uproar. There was much “wa-wa.” [wáwa ‘talking’]

Finally the Constable got hold of his prisoners in the general store of Stockham & Dawley, which is near the village. The Indians crowded about and pressed the officer into the corner of the store, where they pinioned him and allowed the prisoners to escape. The officer then grasped the Indian foremost in the interference and rioting and tried to put the handcuffs on that man. Other Siwashes jumped in, and in the scuffle they took the handcuffs from the officer. He drew his revolver and the Indians took that away. They also took away his baton. Then they made tracks.

On Sat. night, shortly prior to the sailing of Queen City on her down trip [to Victoria], the handcuffs, revolver and baton were returned. The prisoners are still at large though. The officer returned to Clayoquot and the sealers came back to Victoria.

It is anticipated that further efforts will be made to make the Indians guilty of deserting from the sealing vessels pay the penalty of their offences.

From passengers who arrived on Queen City it was learned that much lumber from the wreck of some large vessel which evidently, from the markings on the timber, was carrying it as cargo, a disaster has taken place somewhere near Clayoquot. It is believed by the people along the coast that the vessel could not have been the coal-laden Makaweli. It is considered certain now that whatever has overtaken Makaweli, she has not foundered on the West Coast Vancouver Island.

[Victoria (BC) Colonist, 1904-11-26]

What do you think?