1825: Scouler all around the PNW coast

Fort Vancouver was so new that it wasn’t yet as big as Fort George (Astoria), at the time when naturalist John Scouler visited the Pacific Northwest.


(Image credit: NatSCA)

Page 174 of today’s reading material tells us that.

I’m referring to the year 1825, and the article “Dr. John Scouler’s Journal of a Voyage to N. W. America. [1824-’25-’26.] II. Leaving the Galapagos Islands for the North Pacific Coast” (Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 6(2):159-205, 1905).

I’ve dealt previously with scholarly Scouler’s CW-related interactions, and found they were confined to the lower Columbia River area, a distribution that by now we have come to expect from what we’ve read in early sources. At most, I’d hazard a guess that a few individuals among the Makahs, Klallams, and Puget Sound Salish know some CW due to a bit of contact with Astoria-based traders.

Scouler’s summer 1825 visit aboard the Hudsons Bay Co. supply ship William and Ann was also quite early days for any pidgin language farther north on the Pacific NW coast. About the supposed “Nootka Jargon”, his journal tends to indicate that any such critter was already obsolete.

As for Haida Gwaii, he says a combination of some English and a local Native interpreter with lots of experience of dealing with US ships worked quite well.

June 24, 1825 (page 178) — Some Haida people come to the ship in canoes, saying that their village that’s in sight is Skedans. They mention the names of several vessels that have recently visited them. [DDR observation — none of this communication need have been in any language at all. It’s often very easy to connect proper names with their referents.]

June 25 — The Haidas know a surprising amount of English:


June 26 (page 180) — Scouler accurately analyzes Haida as being unrelated both to Chinookan (or maybe Lower Chehalis Salish; he, like many early Euro-Americans, confused those two languages) and to Nuučaan’uɬ:


A local Haida man is taken on as interpreter for the expedition:


June 30 (page 182) — In the vicinity of “Point Ramsden” (Ginğolx a.k.a. “Kincolith” in Nass Tsimshian territory), the local people’s speech, erroneously termed a dialect of Haida, is “easily understood by our new interpreter” due to longstanding close connections with the Haidas:


July 1 (page 183) — The Nass people seem to recall Captain Vancouver’s visit of 33 years previous, Scouler infers from what they are saying:


On page 192 Scouler muses that the supposed “hostile disposition” of the north coast tribes may be due to harsh treatment by United States traders, who now dominate the fur business north of “Nootka”.

July 30 — Arriving at “Nootka” on Vancouver Island; the local people “repeated the well known words Wakush & Masquada“. I’m not sure what that second word is supposed to be; the name of Chief “Maquinna”? Scouler, who has already learned a bit of Chinuk Wawa on the Columbia River, sees similarities with Nuuchahnulth speech, and he claims “soon [we] were able to understand them pretty easily.”



July 31 — Scouler’s observations about Nuuchahnulth dislike of alcohol and smoking tobacco match those made by visitors in the 1780s! The lack of European goods there is remarkable, and we’ll see more about this below:


Interestingly, Scouler observes that iron is still in huge demand here at Yuquot, to the point that some of it gets pilfered from the ship by locals.

August 3 (page 194) — None of the local Native people feel like talking about the 1811 disaster of the Pacific Fur Company’s ship Tonquin:



Scouler also explains why “Nootka” is no longer a rich village (pages 194-195). It’s because the center of trade has been shifting to Astoria (established 1811 on the Columbia River) —



The prominence of Astoria is evident from the mariners’ encountering Makah people on August 8 who know them from having visited that place, a.k.a. “Fort George” (page 195):


August 9 — Not only do Straits of Juan de Fuca tribes visit Fort George now, but the Euro-American traders from that establishment travel to this area to do business with tribes such as the Klallam Salish:


August 15 (page 199) — In the San Juan Islands? (between Klallam and Lummi Salish territories), a well-known Native man “Waskalatchy” (who shows up quite a lot in the later Fort Langley journals) is giving navigation advice to the mariners. Possibly he already knows some Chinuk Wawa from dealing with the visiting Pacific Fur Co. crews…


August 17 (page 200) — Scouler claims to know a very detailed belief of the Lummi people:


The people in this area still have almost no guns or iron, he observes.

August 20 (page 202) — Nooksack and Lummi Salish people warn the mariners of an impending raid by northern tribes, who indeed have a history of visiting Coast Salish communities to raid and do battle:


August 24 (page 203) — A Cowichan (Vancouver Island Salish) chief tells the mariners of a group of White people in the vicinity:

august 24

Pages 203-204 — Chinookans have been dissuaded from making war on neighboring tribes by the verbal threat of smallpox being (supposedly) released among them if they commit such acts:



August 28 (page 205) — A Makah man seemingly tells the mariners that he has “been carried of[f] & sold as a slave by an American ship.”


(Scouler really has a low opinion of folks from the recently independent United States.)

What do you think?
qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?