1792 and 1794: More evidence against wide Nootka Jargon use (Vancouver 1802)

Today’s information source is “A narrative or journal of a voyage of discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and round the world: Performed in the years 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795″ credited to George Vancouver and Lieutenant Broughton (London: J. Lee, 1802).


The earlier pages of this narrative tell, in detail, the content of lots of verbal communication with people in Hawai’i, a place which had only been “discovered” by Europeans 14 years previous. (One of many examples is page 29’s conversation with a Hawai’ian man who speaks “broken English”.)

Contrast that with the lack of comprehension of the language of Nootka as spoken by Capt. Vancouver’s visiting sailors among the Heiltsuk of BC’s coast in 1792 (?)*, as I recently discussed here. 

* I find it a challenge sometimes to figure out which year certain dates fall within, in Vancouver’s 1802 published narrative. It skips around quite a bit between the travels of his two ships. But all of the dates fit within his 1791-1796 voyage. 

From the same Narrative, we also have to reckon with the following 5 encounters with Indigenous people of a region “discovered” at virtually the same date, the Pacific Northwest Coast:

  • May 6th, 1792 (page 40) —
    S’Klallam Salish people of the Port Towns(h)end, Washington, area:
    no indication of spoken communication with them (which these and other journals of the kind typically carefully record, as they were always hungry for, and often under orders to record, information on the places that they were first to visit).
  • Late June,1792 (on page 46) —
    Sechelt Coast Salish of Jervis’ Canal (Jervis Inlet, BC):
    these people had by all appearances never met Europeans, and there’s no indication given of verbal communication with them. 
  • Around the start of July 1792 (page 48) —
    Homalco and/or Klahoose Coast Salish, and/or Kwiakah and/or We Wai Kai Kwakwaka’wakw, of Bute Inlet, BC:
    no indication of spoken communication between them and Vancouver’s people. 
  • May 20, 1794 (?) (page 49) —
    Kwakwaka’wakw Northern Wakashans of the Port Neville, BC area:
    no indication of successful or other verbal communication.
  • Mid-May of 1794 (pages 78-79) —
    Tlingits in Alaska:
    no indication of spoken communication here either, despite various close encounters and shore visits by the Vancouver gang. 

Only in the case of the Heiltsuks does the 1802 edition specify that the crew was attempting to speak “Nootka” (Nuučaan’uɬ). But I suppose Vancouver’s men were trying the same lingo on every Indigenous group they met in this region. And it looks abundantly clear that they had no successful linguistic communication with anyone outside of Nuuchahnulth territory.

I just realized that I should say out loud, for anyone who’s not a regular reader of my site, that obviously there’s zero sign of Chinuk Wawa or any other pidgin / trade language in the 1790s in any of the places noted above. 

Tomorrow I’ll be posting another article based on a better edition of Vancouver’s voyage in the Pacific NW, with excellent new insights into the (apparent) Nootka Jargon.

What do you think?