1803-1806: The Jewitt narrative

One keen observer of Nuuchahnulth life was John Rodgers Jewitt (1783-1821), the most “Boston man” of “Boston men” to ever visit the PNW coast.

John Rodgers Jewitt (image credit: Searchable Sea Literature)

Jewitt was: 

  • (#1) Born in Boston, England, and
  • (#2) crew member of a Boston, Massachusetts vessel, 
  • (#3) such vessels were known as “Boston men” if I’m not mistaken),
  • (#4) and that ship was named the Boston!

Jewitt wrote the bestselling “Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt: Only Survivor of the Crew of the Ship Boston, During a Captivity of Nearly Three Years among the Savages of Nootka Sound” (the edition I own is from Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1967). 

(If he had visited a few years later and come to the Columbia River, Jewitt would’ve also been (#5) a Boston-man (bástən-mán) ‘U.S. person’ by the standards of Chinuk Wawa, which doesn’t seem to have existed when he was out here!)

Here are the linguistically consequential bits I’ve culled for your edification from this important historical figure’s memoir. Spoiler alert: there is surprisingly little Nuuchahnulth in this book, considering the extraordinary length of Jewitt’s stay at Yuquot. However, I’ve separately posted Jewitt’s single-page vocabulary collection of that language, which shows definite signs of pidginization.

March 13, 1803 (pages 21-22) — Due to previous experience trading with British and US ships, Chief Maquinna of “Nootka” (Yuquot) knows “a number of English words, and in general could make himself pretty well understood by us in our own language.”

Maquinna doesn’t communicate primarily in English, though. Here’s a misunderstanding involving his use of (pidginized) Nuučaan’uɬ with the less-than-comprehending visitors: 

March 21, 1803 (p. 24) — Maquinna returns a gun he has been given by Captain Salter of the Boston, saying “it was peshak, that is bad”. Salter tells Jewitt that the chief is a liar, among other insults, which unfortunately Maquinna understands. 

March 22 (p. 25) — Maquinna asks the captain when he intends to go to sea and is answered ‘to-morrow’; he goes on, “You love salmon — much in Friendly Cove, why not go then and catch some?” 

Later that day (p. 28ff), the Native people attack the crew. Jewitt is belowdecks; “…Maquina, calling me by name, ordered me to come up.” Maquinna advises him to listen to what he’s about to say, phrases about as follows: “John — I speak — you no say no — You say no — daggers come!” The chief goes on to offer to spare armorer/blacksmith Jewitt’s life if he will agree to work for him. The severed heads of 25 crew members are brought to Jewitt, to tell the name of each person. 

P. 30-31: “Maquina then ordered me to get the ship under weigh for Friendly Cove…by order of the King [Maquinna], I ran her ashore on a sandy beach…” Maquinna’s wives approach Jewitt “with words expressive of condolence.” The local men clamor to kill Jewitt, but the chief tells then “that he had promised me my life and would not break his word; and that besides, I knew how to repair and to make arms, and should be of great use to them.” After a while these demands are repeated, “saying that not one of us ought to be left alive to give information to others of our countrymen and prevent them from coming to trade or induce them to revenge the destruction of our ship”. 

P. 32: In the course of the night, news comes that another sailor has survived on board. Maquinna makes Jewitt “understand that as soon as the sun rose he should kill him. I endeavoured to persuade him to spare his life, but he bade me be silent and go to sleep.”

P. 33: On the beach next morning, all the local men are gathered. “The king addressed them, saying that one of the white men had been found alive on board the ship, and requested their opinion as to saving his life or putting him to death. They were unanimously for the first: This determination he made known to me. Having arranged my plan [of claiming that the survivor is Jewitt’s dad], I asked him, pointing to the boy [Maquinna’s son] whom I still held by the hand, if he loved his son, he answered that he did; I then asked the child if he loved his father, and on replying in the affirmative, I said and “I also love mine.” The crewmate thus saved is named Thompson. 

A few days later (p. 37), Jewitt describes a big gathering of the Native people from all around to partake of the valuable goods from the Boston, and uses a Nuuchahnulth word for a native garment to refer to Euro-American clothing: “Nothing could be more ludicrous than the appearance of this motley group of savages collected on the shore, dressed as they were, with their ill-gotten finery, in the most fantastic manner, some in women’s smocks, taken from our cargo, others in Kotsacks, (or cloaks) of blue, red or yellow broadcloth, with stockings drawn over their heads…”

The son of Maquina mentioned above, Sat-sat-sok-sis, dances for the many guests; “…the women applauded each feat of activity in the dancer by repeating the words, Wocash! Wocash Tyee! that is good! very good prince.” In native Nuuchahnulth, these words more nearly mean ‘Bravo, Bravo, eldest brother.’

P. 44: Maquinna “always obliged me to give whatever provisions I bought to the women to cook — and one day finding Thompson and myself on the shore employed in boiling down sea-water into salt, on being told what it was, he was very much displeased, and taking the little we had procured, threw it into the sea.” (Elsewhere we learn that the Nuuchahnulth don’t like the White people’s custom of adding salt to food.) 

P. 45 — Maquinna often asks Jewitt if his head wound is causing him pain. 

Pages 46-48: “…word was brought me that Maquina was going to kill Thompson…I…begged him for my sake not to kill my father, and at length succeeded in taking the musket from him and persuading him to sit down.” On enquiring into the cause of his anger, I learned that while Thompson was lighting the lamps in the king’s room…some of the boys began to teaze him, running around him and pulling him by the trowsers…Thompson…struck the prince…Maquina…for a long time after could not forgive Thompson, but would repeatedly say, “John, you die — Thompson kill…I however interceded…telling him that if my father was killed, I was determined not to survive him…he refused to deliver him up the vengeance of his people, saying, that for John’s sake they must consent to let him live. The prince…gave me an account of what had happened…Thompson…not many weeks after…was guilty of a similar indiscretion, in striking the eldest son of a chief, who was about eighteen years old, and according to their custom was considered as a Tyee, or chief himself…”

Jewitt now resolves to become skilled in communicating with the tribal people. Page 49: “As a further recommendation to their favour, and what might eventually prove of the utmost importance to us, I resolved to learn their language, which in the course of a few months residence, I so far succeeded in acquiring, as to be able to as to be able in general to make myself well understood. I likewise tried to persuade Thompson to learn it as what might prove necessary to him. But he refused, saying, that he hated both them and their cursed lingo, and would have nothing to do with it.” [That would be amazingly fast even for a First Nations person to have learned actual Nuučaan’uɬ; it’s virtually certain that Jewitt means he got good at speaking a pidginized version / the “Nootka Jargon”.] 


Fort San Miguel at Yuquot in 1793, guarding the first European settlement in BC (Santa Cruz de Nuca), drawn by Sigismund Bacstrum (image credit: Wikipedia)

Maquinna recounts to Jewitt how the Spaniards had forcibly taken over a village site to build their Fort San Miguel (which they occupied 1789-1795); on page 52 we read, “With great sorrow, as Maquina told me, did they find themselves compelled to quit their ancient place of residence, but with equal joy did they repossess themselves of it when the Spanish garrison was expelled by the English.”  

More about Native clothing here, and again the Nuuchahnulth (NCN) word literally meaning a ‘sea otter pelt’ appears to be generalized to mean any cloak/robe sort of clothing at least in pidginized NCN; in the following passage, the first description appears to be of a woven non-fur garment (p. 56-57) — “Their dress usually consists of but a single garment, which is a loose cloak or mantle (called Kutsack) in one piece, reaching nearly to the feet. This is tied loosely over the right or left shoulder so as to leave the arms at full liberty. ¶ Those of the common people are painted red with ochre the better to keep out the rain, but the chiefs wear them of their native colour, which is a pale yellow, ornamenting them with borders of the sea otter skin, a kind of grey cloth made of the hair of some animal which they procure from the tribes to the South, or their cloth wrought or painted with various figures in red or black, representing men’s heads, the sun and moon, fish and animals, which are frequently executed with much skill. They have also a girdle of the same kind for securing this mantle, or Kutsack, around them…The chiefs have also mantles of the sea otter skin, but these are only put on upon extraordinary occasions… [Another garment] is called Metamelth and is probably got from an animal of the moose kind, it is highly prized by these people, is their great war dress…” [This latter item, elkskin armor, also became widely known as a clemon / clamon / clemel etc., its Haida name.]

P. 57-58, Jewitt describes the common Native hat, “a cap or bonnet in form not unlike a large sugar loaf with the top cut off. This is made of the same materials with their cloth, but is in general of a closer texture and by way of tassel has a long strip of the skin of the Metamelth attached to it…This bonnet is called Seea-poks.” 

Pages 62-63 tell about the well-known dentalium shell (Chinuk Wawa háykʰwa, ultimately from the following NCN word) — “The wives of…the king or principal chiefs [wear] bracelets and necklaces, consisting of a number of strings of Ife-waw, an article much prized by them, and which makes a very handsome appearance. This Ife-waw, as they term it, is a kind of shell of a dzzling whiteness, and as smooth as ivory, it is of a cylindrical form, in a slight degree curved, about the size of a goose quill, hollow…” 

Page 64 describes paints used on the body. “On extraordinary occasions, the kind and principal chiefs used to strew over their faces, after painting, a fine black shining powder, procured from some mineral, as Maquina told me it was got from the rocks. This they call pelpelth, and value it highly…” [DDR — My understanding is that this is pulverized mica.] 

On the topic of Nuuchahnulth songs, on page 72 Jewitt tells of the various occasions for singing, “as war[,] whaling, and fishing, at their marriages and feasts, and at public festivals or solemnities. The language of the most of these appears to be very different, in many respects, from that used in their common conversation, which leads me to believe either that they have a different mode of expressing themselves in poetry, or that they borrow their songs from their neighbors, and what the more particularly induces me to the latter opinion, is, that whenever any of the Newchemass, a [Kwakwaka’wakw] people from the Northward and who speak a very different language, arrived, they used to tell me that they expected a new song, and were almost always sure to have one.” [DDR — this passage really shows Jewitt’s close ear for detail; he was really trying to the best of his non-scholar ability to figure out the various linguistic data that he observed. I expect some of the lyrics he was hearing puzzled him because they weren’t words, though!] 

Page 75 is another specimen of this kind of observational keenness; Jewitt talks about the “Kla-iz-zarts”, who I understand to be the Makah people (“Classets” in many old sources). “Their language is the same as spoken at Nootka, but their pronunciation is much more hoarse and guttural.” [DDR — Makah is indeed closely related to Nuuchahnulth, but has quite a different sound to it.] 

Page 76 speaks of “Maqunia’s [sic] Arcomahor Queen, Y-ya-tintla-no,being the daughter of the Wickinninish king.” 

More linguistic meta-observations, and more extended use of the NCN word for a ‘sea otter skin’, on pages 77-78: “…the Newchemass who come from a great way to the Northward, and from some distance inland, as I was told by Maquina, speak quite a different language, although it is well understood by those of Nootka…Their usual dress is a Kootsuck made of wolf skin, with a number of the tails attached to it…Their weapons are the Cheetoolth, or war club, which is made from whale bone, daggers, bows and arrows, and a kind of spear pointed with bone or copper.”

Pages 78-79: “The trade of most of the other tribes with Nootka was principally train oil, seal or whale’s blubber, fish fresh or dried, herring or salmon spawn, clams, and muscles [mussels], and the yama, a species of fruit which is pressed and dried, cloth, sea otter skins, and slaves…The Wickinninish and Kla-iz-zarts brought to market many slaves, the best sea otter skins, great quantities of oil, whale sinew, and cakes of the yama, highly ornamented canoes, some I-whaw, red ochre and pelpelth of an inferior quality to that obtained from the Newchemass, but particularly the so much valued Metamelth, and an excellent root called by the Kla-iz-zarts Quawnoose [DDR — cf. Makah kʷa•dis ‘camas; wild onion’]. This is the size of a small onion, but rather longer, being of a tapering form like a pear, and of a brownish colour. It is cooked by steam..sweet, mealy and of a most agreeable flavour.” 

Page 83: “…there occurred a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning…they seated themselves on the roof amid the severest of the tempest, drumming upon the boards, and looking up to heaven…and as he [Maquinna] afterwards told me, begging Quahootze, the name they gave to God, not to kill them…” 

Page 83: “In the mean time, we frequently received accounts from the tribes who came to Nootka, both from the north and south, of there being vessels on the coast, and were advised by their chiefs to make our escape, who also promised us their aid, and to put us on board.” 

Page 84: “But I was still more strongly solicited to leave Nootka by a woman. This was a Wickinninish princess, a younger sister of Maquina’s wife, who was there on a visit…She…asked me many questions respecting my country, if I had a mother and sister at home, and if they would not grieve for my absence…[There was] a defect in one of her eyes, the sight of which had been injured by some accident, the reason, as Maquina told me, why she had not been married…She urged me repeatedly to return with her, telling me that the Wickinninish were much better than the Nootkians; that her father would treat me more kindly than Maquina, give me better food and clothes, and finally put me on board one of my own country vessels.”

Page 88: “The spawn of the salmon…they take out, and without any other preparation, throw it into their tubs, where they leave it to stand and ferment…and one of the greatest favours they can confer on any person, is to invite him to eat Quakamiss, the name they give this food…”

Page 89: “…Maquina one day observed me writing in it [Jewitt’s journal], enquired of me what I was doing, and when I endeavoured to explain it, by telling him that I was keeping an account of the weather, he said it was not so, and that I was speaking bad about him and telling how he had taken our ship and killed the crew, so as to inform my countrymen, and that if he ever saw me writing in it again, he would throw it into the fire.” 

Page 90, two complete clauses in pidgin Nuučaan’uɬ, giving us some valuable information about the syntax: Jewitt makes Maquina a “Kootsuk or mantle, a fathom square, made entirely of European vest patterns of the gayest colours…Nothing could exceed the pride of Maquina when he first put on this royal robe, decorated like the coat of Joseph, with all the colours of the rainbow, and glittering with the buttons, which as he strode about made a tinkling, while he repeatedly exclaimed in a transport of exultation, Klew shish Katsuck — wick kum atack Nootka. A fine garment — Nootka cant make him.” A more exact translation, based on our knowledge of some of these words in the later language, Chinook Jargon, might be ‘It’s a good (type of) robe — Nuuchahnulths aren’t familiar with it.’ 

Same page and the following one — “Maquina…frequently cautioned me not to listen to them, saying that should I make the attempt, and he were to take me, he should certainly put me to death. While here he gave me a book in which I found the names of seven persons belonging to the ship Manchester of Philadelphia…These men, as Maquina informed me, ran away from the ship, and came to him, but that six of them soon after went off in the night, with an intention to go to the Wickanninish, but were stopped by the Eshquiates, and sent back to him, and that he ordered them to be put to death; and a most cruel death it was, as I was told by one of the natives, four men holding one of them on the ground, and forcing open his mouth, while they choaked him by ramming stones down his throat. As to Jack the boy, who made no attempt to go off, Maquina afterwards sold him to the Wickinninish. I was informed by the princess Yuquathat he was quite a small boy, who cried a great deal, being put to hard labour beyond his strength by the natives, in cutting wood and bringing water, and that when he heard of the murder of our crew, it had such an effect on him that he fell sick and died shortly after.”

Pages 91-92: “The king finding that I was desirous of learning their language, was much delighted, and took great pleasure in conversing with me. On one of these occasions, he explained to me his reasons for cutting off our ship, saying that he bore no ill will to my countrymen, but that he had been several times treated very ill by them.” [Incidents are detailed, involving a Captain Tawnington, Captain Martínez, and Captain Hanna of the Sea Otter.]

Pages 94-95: “Among the provisions which the Indians procure at Tashees [Tahsis], I must not omit mentioning a fruit that is very important, as forming a great article of their food. This is what is called by them the Yama, a species of berry that grows in bunches like currants, upon a bush from two to three feet high, with a large, round and smooth leaf. This berry is black, and abuot the size of a pistol shot, but of rather an oblong shape, and open at the top like the blue whortleberry…It is always eaten with oil.” 

Page 95: “With regard to the latter [bear meat], they have a most singular custom, which is, that any one who eats of it is obliged to abstain from eating any kind of fresh fish whatever, for the term of two months…This I had an opportunity of observing while at Tashees, a bear having been killed early in December, of which not more than ten of the natives would eat, being prevented by the prohibition annexed to it, which was also the reason of my comrade and myself not tasting it, on being told by Maquina the consequence.” 

Page 96: The Nuuchanulth people have a custom involving treating a freshly killed bear as a human chief; “This dressing the bear as they call it, is an occasion of great rejoicing throughout the village…”

One December day, the village begins its Wolf ceremonies (page 98) — “…Maquina came to us, and giving us a quantity of dried provision, ordered us to quit the house and not return to the village before the expiration of seven days, for that if we appeared within that period, he should kill us.” 

For a special Christmas meal (page 100), “…we bought from one of the natives, some dried clams and oil, and a root called Kletsup, which we cooked by steaming, and found it very palatable. This root consists of many fibres, of about six inches long, and of the size of a good quill. It is sweet, of an agreeable taste, not unlike the Quanoose, and it is eaten with oil. The plant that produces it I have never seen.” 

Page 101 — The Yuquots go to visit the A-i-tiz-zarts (Ehattesahts); “On our arrival we were received at the shore by the inhabitants, a few of whom were armed with muskets, which they fired, with loud shouts and exclamations of Wocash, wocash.” 

Page 102: very few Ehattesahts had ever seen a European. They carefully inspect Jewitt, “…even opening my mouth to see if I had a tongue, for notwithstanding I had by this time become well acquainted with their language, I preserved the strictest silence, Maquina on our first landing having enjoined me not to speak, until he should direct. Having undergone examination for some time, Maquina at length made a sign to me to speak to them. On hearing me address them in their own language, they were greatly astonished and delighted, and told Maquina that they now perceived that I was a man like themselves, except that I was white and looked like a seal, alluding to my blue jacket and trowsers, which they wanted to persuade me to take off, as they did not like their appearance. Maquina in the mean time gave an account to the chief, of the scheme he had formed for surprising our ship, and the manner in which he and his people had carried it into execution, with such particular and horrid details  of that transaction as chilled the blood in my veins.”

On page 104 we’re told of various reports by Native people to Maquinna claiming that 20 (!) ships are coming to destroy the Nootka tribe for its actions toward the Boston. Jewitt has to go to great effort to persuade Maquinna that this must be untrue. 

Pages 106-108: “…Maquina used frequently in speaking of [his brother-in-law] Tootoosch’s sickness, to express much satisfaction that his hands had not been stained with the blood of any of our men. When Maquina was first informed by his sister, of the strange conduct of her husband, he immediately went to his [Tootoosch’s] house, taking us with him; suspecting that his disease had been caused by us, and that the ghosts of our countrymen had been called thither by us, to torment him. We found him raving about Hall and Wood, saying that they were peshak, that is bad…saying that Hall and Wood were there, and would not let him eat. Maquina then pointing to us, asked if it was not John and Thompson who troubled him. Wik, he replied, that is, no, John klushish — Thompson klushish — John and Thompson are both good…I tried to persuade him that Hall and Wood were not there, and that none were near him but ourselves: he said, I know very well you do not see them, but I do…Maquina…asked me if I had ever seen any one affected in this manner, and what was the matter with him. I gave him to understand, pointing to his head, that his brain was injured, and that he did not see things as formerly…Maquina asked me what was done in my country in similar cases. I told him that such persons were closely confined, and sometimes tied up and whipped, in order to make them better. After pondering for some time, he said that he should be glad to do any thing to relieve him, and that he should be whipped. [Thompson is told to start whipping Tootoosch, which he gladly does.] …This was too much for Maquina, who, at length, unable to endure it longer, ordered Thompson to desist, and Tootoosch to be carried back, saying that if there was no other way of curing him but by whipping, he must remain mad.” 

Page 109 — when Maquina brings in a whale, “…men, women, and children, mounted the roofs of their houses, to congratulate the king on his success, drumming most furiously on the planks, and exclaiming Wocash — wocash Tyee.” 

Page 110 — “A short time before leaving Tashees, the king makes a point of passing a day alone on the mountain, whither he goes very privately early in the morning, and does not return till late in the evening. This is done, as I afterwards learned, for the purpose of singing and praying to his God for success in whaling the ensuing season.” 

Pages 112-113: On the traditional position of master of ceremonies — “Almost all of the kings or head chiefs of the principal tribes, were accompanied by a similar character who appeared to be attached to their dignity, and are called in their language, Climmer-habbee.” 

Page 113 — Maquinna asks Jewitt why Thompson never laughs, “observing that I must have had a very good tempered woman indeed for my mother, as my father was so very ill-natured a man.”

Page 114: “…we suffered much abuse from the common people, who, when Maquina or some of the chiefs were not present, would insult us, calling us wretched slaves, asking us where was our Tyee or captain, making gestures signifying that his head had been cut off, and that they would like to do the same to us…”

Page 117: “We were nevertheless, treated at times, with much kindness by Maquina, who would give us a plenty of the best that he had to eat, and occasionally, some small present of cloth for a garment, promising me, that if any ship should arrive within a hundred miles of Nootka, he would send a canoe with a letter from me to the captain, so that he might come to our release.” 

Page 118: “…I took an opportunity to inform him of the ill treatment that we frequently received from his people, and the insults that were offered us by some of the stranger tribes in calling us white slaves, and loading us with other opprobrkious terms. He was much displeased, and said that his subjects should not be allowed to treat us ill, and that if any of the strangers did it, he wished us to punish the offenders with death, at the same time directing us for our security, to go constantly armed.” 

Page 120: “In the latter part of July, Maquina informed me that he was going to war with the A-y-charts, a tribe living at about fifty miles to the south…and that I must make a number of daggers for his men, and cheetoolths for his chiefs…”

Page 121: an apparent prayer said by those preparing to go to war (and therefore probably not in intentionally pidginized NCN) — “Wocash Quahootze, Teechamme ah welth, wik-etish tau-ilth — Kar-sab-matemas — Wik-sish to hauk matemas — I ya-ish kah-shittle — As-smootish warich matemas — Which signifies, Good, or great God, let me live — Not be sick — Find the enemy — Not fear him — Find him asleep, and kill a great many of him…Maquina having informed Thompson and myself that he shold take us with him, was very solicitous that we should bathe and scrub ourselves in the same way with them, telling me that it would harden our skins so that the weapons of the enemy would not pierce them…” 

Pages 124-125 — “…the king of the Wickinninish was particularly solicitous to obtain me…[his messenger came and] declared that he came to buy Tooteyoohannisthe name by which I was known to them…Maquina…was again very strongly urged to sell me by Ulatilla…chief of the Klaizzarts, who had come to Nootka on a visit. ¶ This chief, who could speak tolerable English…was fond of conversing with me in English and in his own language, asking me many questions relative to my country…telling me, that if he could persuade Maquina to part with me, he would put me on board the first ship that came to his country…” 

Pages 125-126: “…Maquina informed me, that he and his chiefs had held council both before and after quitting Nootka, in which they had determined that I must marry one of their women…” He tells Jewitt some reasons for this; the latter requests to choose someone from outside of the tribe. 

Pages 127-129: At Ehattesaht, Maquina’s master of ceremonies displays many valuable goods (for the purpose of buying Jewitt a bride there), saying that all these belong to Jewitt. “Immediately on which, all the tribe, both men and women, who were assembled on this occasion, set up a cry of Klack-ko-Tyee, that is, Thank ye chief.” Maquinna then gives a half-hour long speech detailing Jewitt’s many good points. “While Maquina was speaking, his master of ceremonies was continually skipping about, making the most extravagant gestures and exclaiming Wocash.” The Ehattesaht chief then gives speech “setting forth the many good qualities and accomplishments of his daughter” and so on. The same master of ceremonies “again began to call out as loud as he could bawl, Wocash…” A feast of “Klussamit, or dried herring” is given; the next morning Jewitt promises the hosting chief to take good care of his daughter, and the Yuquot people leave for home, arriving to exclamations of Wocash from the hometown crowd. 

Pages 132-133: In December of 1804, “Maquina directed Thompson and myself to remain, and pray with them to Quahootze to be good to them, and thank him for what he had done. [Various ritual observances of the Wolf religion follow.] Maquina, on my enquiring the reason of this display, informed me that it was an ancient custom of his nation, to sacrifice a man at the close of this solemnity in honour of their God, but that his father had abolished it, and substituted this in its place.”

Page 133: “I was sent for by my neighbour Yealthlowerthe king’s elder brother, to file his teeth…he informed me that a new wife, whom he had a little time before purchased, having refused to sleep with him, it was his intention…to bite off her nose. I endeavoured to dissuade him from it, but he was determined, and in fact, performed his savage threat that very night…he afterwards told me, that in similar cases, the husband had a right, with them, to disfigure his wife in this way, or some other, to prevent her ever marrying again.”

A lunar eclipse on January 15, 1805 causes “a great outcry of the inhabitants…when I asked them the reason of this proceeding, they pointed to the moon, and said that a great cod-fish was endeavouring to swallow her, and that they were driving him away.” 

Early in 1806 Jewitt becomes ill for a long time; “Maquina perceiving, he finally told me, that if I did not like living with my wife, and that was the cause of my being so sad, I might part with her…On parting with me, she discovered [showed] much emotion, begging me that I would suffer her to remain till I had recovered, as there was no one who would take so good care of me as herself. But when I told her she must go, for that I did not think I should ever recover, which in truth I but little expected, and that her father would take good care of her, and treat her much more kindly than Maquina, she took an affectionate leave, telling me that she hoped I should get soon better, and left her two slaves to take care of me. After her departure, I requested Maquina, that, as I had parted with my wife, he would permit me to resume my European dress, for, otherwise, from not having been accustomed to dress like them, I should certainly die.” (Pages 136-137)

Pages 138-139: “The office of king, or chief, is, with those people, hereditary, and descends to the eldest son, or in failure of male issue, to the elder brother…respective ranks…are also designated by the embellishments of their mantles, or Kutsaks. The king or head Tyee, is their leader in war…The king…whenever he receives a large supply of provisions, he must invite all the men of his tribe to his house, to eat it up, otherwise, as Maquina told me, he would not be considered as conducting like a Tyee, and would be no more thought of than a common man.”

Pages 139-140: “They believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, whom they call Quahootze, and who, to use Maquina’s expression, was one great Tyee in the sky, who gave them their fish, and could take them from them, and was the greatest of all kings. Their usual place of worship, appeared to be the water, for whenever they bathed, they addressed some words in form of prayer to God above, intreating that he would preserve them in health, give them good success in fishing, &c….Some of them would sometimes go several miles to bathe, in order to do it in secret; the reason for this I could never learn…I once found one of our women more than two miles from the village, on her knees in the woods, with her eyes shut, and her face turned towards heaven, uttering words in a lamentable tone, among which I distinctly heard, Wocash Ah-welth, meaning good Lord, and which has nearly the same signification with Quahootze.” Jeweitt is unable to make Maquina understand, much less convince him, that Tootoosch still exists after dying (in European belief). 

On July 19, 1806 (pages 144 and following), “…my ears were saluted with the joyful sound of three cannon, and the cries of the inhabitants, exclaiming, Weena, weena — Mamethlee — that is, strangers — white men. [Jewitt advises Thompson to stay unemotional and show no sign of wanting to escape.] …Maquina came in, and seeing us at work appeared much surprised, and asked me if I did not know that a vessel had come. I answered in a careless manner, that it was nothing to me. How, John, said he, you no glad go board. I replied that I cared very little about it, as I had become reconciled to their manner of living, and had no wish to go away. He then told me, that he had called a council of his people respecting us, and that we must leave off work and be present at it.” [This council advises the chief not to go on board the just-arrived brig Lydia. Maquinna asks Jewitt whether he should go, and is answered that he has usually been treated well by the Whites. The chief says he will go if Jewitt will write a letter testifying to his good character; Jewitt writes one instead asking for Maquinna to be taken prisoner. Maquinna goes to the ship, is imprisoned, and various verbal exchanges occur between Jewitt and the villagers.]

On pages 155-157, when Jewitt arrives at the ship, Maquinna “…expressed his pleasure with the welcome of “Wocash John”…” On page 157, as Jewitt and Captain [Samuel] Hill (1777-1825) discuss what to do with the chief, “Maquina was in great anxiety, as from what English he knew he perfectly comprehended the subject of our deliberation; constantly interrupting me to enquire what we had determined to do with him, what the captain said, if his life would be spared, and if I did not think that Thompson would kill him.” 

Page 158 — Jewitt tells the villagers that Maquinna will be staying on board for the night before being returned; “They answered, Woho, woho — very well, very well.” 

Page 159 — Captain Hill has Jewitt ask Maquinna to have some furs ready to trade when the Lydia returns in November. “This Maquina promised, saying to me at the same time, “John, you come make pow, which means, fire a gun to let me know, and I will come down.” “

The ship then sails to Haida Gwaii for four months, then “to Columbia River, for the purpose of procuring masts, &c. for our brig, which had suffered considerably in her spars during a gale of wind. We proceeded about ten miles up the river, to a small Indian village, where we heard from the inhabitants, that Captains Clark and Lewis, from the United States of America, had been there about a fortnight before, on their journey over-land, and had left several medals with them, which they showed us.” (Page 161) [This communication presumably happened in the early Chinuk Wawa, which was still essentially a local variety of “Nootka Jargon”; plus, possibly, the Lydia had already visited these Chinooks and learned some CW. Other sources tell us that the Chinooks gave Capt. Hill a letter from Lewis and Clark.] 

The Lydia returns to Nootka to trade again (page 162); some Yuquot men are held as hostages onboard while Jewitt goes ashore to visit Maquinna. ” “Ah John,” said he, I see “you are afraid to trust me, but if they had come with you, I should not have hurt you, though I should have taken good care not ot let you go on board of another vessel.” ” On parting ways, Maquinna asks “how many moons it would be before I shoudl come back again” and urging Jewitt to send his own son to be brought up by Maquinna when the boy is old enough to travel.

As an extra bonus, on page 166 is added a “War-Song of the Nootka Tribe”, described as “Commencing with a chorus repeated at the end of each line”: 

Hah-yee hah yar har, he yar hah.
Ie yie ee yah har — ee yie hah.

Ie yar-ee yar hah — ee yar hah. 
Ie yar ee I yar yar hah — Ie yar ee yee yah! 

I-ye ma hi-chill at-sish Kla-ha — Ha-ye-hah.
Que nok ar parts-arsh waw — Ie yie-yar.
Waw-hoo naks sar hasch — Yar-hah. I-yar hee I-yar. 
Waw hoo naks ar hasch yak-queets sish ni-ese, 
Waw har. Hie yee ah-hah. 

Repeated over and over with gestures and brandishing of weapons. 


Ie-yee ma hi-chill, signifies, Ye do not know. It appears to be a poetical mode of expression, the common one for you do not know, being, Wik-kum-atash; from this, it would seem that they have two languages, one for their songs and another for common use. The general meaning of this first song appears to be, Ye little know ye men of Klahar [a tribe that Jewitt earlier says were conquered by the Yuquots), what valiant warriors we are. Poorly can our foes contend with us, when we come with our daggers, &c.

That introductory “chorus”, and the other material that I’ve put in orange letters, appears to be “vocables” rather than words. I’m no expert on that, but they remind me of a Makah song that I have a recording of. The second paragraph appears to be actual native Nuuchahnulth, at least as remembered by Jewitt, who by all indications was not a speaker of it. (Will my Southern Wakashanist readers be able to make sense of it?) Wik-kum-atash is pidginized Nuuchahnulth / the Nootka Jargon, startlingly identical (down to its lack of a personal pronoun) to the early Chinuk Wawa phrase spoken by a Chinookan to Lewis & Clark on the Columbia River about the same date: wík kə́mtəks ‘(I/you/etc.) don’t recognize (it)’.

My take on Jewitt’s narrative is that it shows him using both English (with Maquinna) and a pidginized Nuuchahnulth locally, as well as memorizing more or less accurately a couple of non-pidginized texts. 

qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm? What do you think?