Howay [Haswell, Boit, Hoskins] “Voyages of the Columbia” (Part 2A of 5)

Back to the grindstone. Here we start Part 2 of our investigation into the assembled journals from one ship’s early fur-trading visits to the Pacific Northwest coast.

Let me know if you see something I’ve missed — was there any trading/pidgin/contact language on the northern Northwest Coast in 1791-1792?

Bear in mind that this was the return visit of this crew to these shores. They might be expected to have picked up something of an Indigenous language or languages. Let’s see how that prediction pans out…

hoskins map

(Image source: “The Earliest American Map of the Northwest Coast

Today’s textual material is all taken from F.W. Howay [editor], “Voyages of the “Columbia” to the Northwest coast, 1787-1790 and 1790-1793” (republished 1990).

Part 2A: The journal of John Box Hoskins

Starting from page 161 of Howay’s article, we have John Box Hoskins’ narrative of the 2nd voyage of the ship Columbia, on the Pacific Northwest coast 1791-1792.

June 3, 1791 (p. 181) — reaching the NW coast of America in the vicinity of Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, some news from a Native chief, which is partially understandable to the visiting mariners:

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At four in the morning of the 5th saw the enterance of Clioquot, or Hancock’s Harbour as Captain Gray named it, when he discovered it on his former voyage; bearing north east by north, about eight leagues distance; bore away for the enterance, at eight saw several canoes, two of which came alongside; in one of which was a chief, named Cleeshinah; who calls him[self] Captain Hanna, after an english master of a vessel, that has been on this Coast; in the other another cheif, named Tootooch; this Hanna informed us, there was one Spanish ship at Nootka, one sailed from Clioquot ten days ago, for Claheset, one or two at some places we could not understand; he said, Don Martinez had gone home, that no English or American vessel had arrived here this season; we asked him particularly about Captain Kendrick, whom he said had not been here since he left the coast.

Page 183 — local folks visit come onboard, departing promising to return, which they do the next day (p. 184).

On the 11th of June, people from Nootka arrive, who “confirm’d the account of their being only one Spanish ship there.” (p. 185).

June 15, 1791 (page 186), chief Tootiscoosettle visits the ship but declines the invitation to come aboard, “saying he was going to Inistuck, (another of their villages) to kill a Deer for us”. He is eventually induced to come aboard but is uneasy and very soon returns to his canoe; “he called and said, if his servant was permitted to come aboard with him, he would come” and this was granted. “Tootiscoosettle was now told, Ottoo [a Sandwich Islander (Hawai’ian) from the ship] was gone to his village; this my gentleman made strange of, appear’d to wonder where he had gone, and denied his having any knowledge of him: until Captain Gray told him, he was his prisoner, and unless Ottoo was immediately delivered up, he would carry him to sea; at this, the Chief was much frightened, asked if we meant to kill him, acknowledged he knew where Ottoo was, and immediately dispatched his servant in a canoe to the village…” Ottoo is soon returned to the ship, and punished as a public example. “the Chief was ordered to be present at this punishment; and gave to understand that the man who carried Ottoo away, if he was found, would be punished the same; and if in future, any of the people ran away to his village, and he did not immediately send them back; the first Chief that was caught should also be punished…”

Pages 187-188 (a note after the fact regarding June of 1791), some fairly complicated information from Nuuchahnulth witnesses:

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On our first arrival in this harbor, I was informed by Tootescoosettle that the Spaniards had given up all but one of those English vessels they had taken; that Captain Colinet was here the last season, and wintered here; and Captain Tom, who we suppose to be a Captain Barnard, this Captain Colinet, having sent Captain Hudson, Mr. Temple, and four hands, in a sail boat to Nootka; in their passage thither, they ran on to a ledge of rocks near to Esquot; the boat went to peices, and they were drowned; a few days after, their bodies were found by the natives, taken up, strip[p]ed, gashed, and thrown out for the crows to devour, this account has also been confirmed by Cleeshinah or Captain Hanna and several other Chiefs; with this addition, that it blew very hard, with a heavy sea, one of which upset the boat; the natives of Esquot seeing it, went off in their canoes to their assistance; but before they got to them, the boat crew were all dead; they picked them up, brought them ashore, and treated them as above related. he also added that after Captain Hudson, with his boats crew, had been gone some time; Captain Colinet hearing nothing of them, sent Mr. Gibson to Nootka to enquire of the Spaniards there about them (I suppose suspecting the Spaniards had detained them;) in a short time Mr. Gibson returned and brought word they were killed by the natives; on hearing of which, Captain Colinet took Tootiscoosettle and Tootooch [hostage]; at the same time threatning, without the dead bodies were brought in a week for him to see, whether they were killed or not; he would kill those two Chiefs and every native he could find. Cleeshinah says he immediately went to Esquot himself; where the dead bodies were, but being putrefied and much eaten by the crows, he did not bring them; but brought all their cloaths; these not being bloody, Captain Colinet was satisfied, released the Chiefs, and made them a present of several sheets of copper, cloathing, etca. etca. but before he returned, he says his people had taken one of Captain Colinet’s out of a boat not far from the ship.

Page 190 (June 20, 1791) — visiting “Columbia’s Cove; but we were afterwards informed by the natives that they call it Naspahtee.” This is Nasparti Inlet in the area of Cape Cook, a footnote says.

Page 191 (June 22) — the visitors are told the location of a major village:

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Mr. Haswell reported; after having crossed the Sound, he met with a canoe, the natives of which inform’d him their head village was in the next Sound; he proceeded as far as the enterance, and saw the village at a distance; finding it not safe for the ship to approach, on account of the many sunken rocks, he proceeded no further; returning by the east side of this Sound, he found a small village called by the natives, Opswis…

Pages 191-192, visiting a Nuuchahnulth village (June 24, 1791), being regaled with songs (a rare quotation of Nootka Jargon speech comes in), & reflecting on the difficulties of communicating:

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…two songs; in which was frequently repeated the words “Wakush Tiyee awinna,” or “welcome travelling Chief.” these were sun by a great concourse of natives, who came from all parts of the village to see us, for it is very probable we are the first white people that ever was at their village, and the first many of them ever saw.

when the boat was ready, I abruptly took leave of the old Chief and his sons; they appeared to be much chagrin’d at my sudden departure, and endeavoured to prevail on me to tarry.

On my landing, I gave positive orders to the boats crew, not to offer the least umbrage to the natives; and I verily believe they did not, though no doubt it is too often the case that sailors, when no officer is with them; from their ignorance of the language, either miscomprehend the natives, or the natives them; thus each deeming teh other insulted, a quarrel ensues, and the officers who are on shore fall a sacrifice to it…

June 28, 1791 (page 195), at “Nittenat” (Nitinat/Ditidaht), Vancouver Island, the most frequent sort of communication described in all of the early Euro-American reports of the NW Coast is this kind of already-conventionalized invitation to a village and assurance that the Native people have lots of furs to trade:

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at five, a canoe with ten men came alongside; she was from Nittenat, bound a whaling; the natives requested us to go to their village; saying, as an inducement, there was a plenty of skins; no sooner were they informed that was our intention, than they returned to the village with the news of our arrival.

Page 196, also regarding Ditidaht, a more complex story is conveyed:

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Cassacan we found troubled with the venereal to a great degree. this is the more remarkable as hitherto we have found the women exceeding modest; nothing could even tempt them to come on board the ship; and here they appear the same; this at first induced me to believe it was a disorder prevalent among them; but on questioning Cassacan, he says sometime since a vessel came to this place; to the Captain of which he sold a female prisoner or slave girl for several sheets of copper; on the vessels going away, the girl was sent ashore; he afterwards cohabited with the girl, who shortly after died; caught the fatal disease and communicated it to his wife; who, he says, has it equally as bad as himself…

June 29, 1791 (page 197) — Tootooch’s (Tatoosh) Island near Cape Flattery in Makah country (far northwest Washington state), again fairly basic information but with an expression of a “because/reason” condition:

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On the morning of the 29th Tootooch’s island bore east south east, seven leagues distance; many canoes from the village bound a fishing; one of which was dispatched to inform the Chief of our arrival. at four in the afternoon, several canoes came of[f] with skins; a brisk trade ensued, which lasted until late. The next morning, saw a vast number of canoes, bound out a fishing; in one of which was Tootooch the Chief; who came on board and requested us to tarry until the evening; as he said fish was very plenty now, and he, as an example to others, must go to catch them himself, therefore till then he could not spare time; when he would fetch of many skins; but in this he deceived us, for few were purchased, and none of him.

Pages 200-201, at Rose Harbour in southernmost Haida Gwaii, July 8, 1791 — one woman is seen as an especially good communicator, and yet her vivid anecdote is undermined by both (A) its being easily seen as consisting largely of gestures rather than words and (B) Hoskins’s clear admission that the mariners scarcely understand the Haidas:

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On Coyah the chief’s being asked for, we were informed by several of the natives, particularly a woman, who was very intelligible; that Captain Kendrick was here sometimes ago in a vessel with one mast, and lately in one with two; that he took Coyah, tied a rope round his neck, whipt him, painted his face, cut off his hair, took away from him a great many skins, and then turned him ashore: Coyah was now no longer a Chief, but an “Ahliko,” or one of the lower class; they have now no head Chief, but many inferior Chiefs. how much credit is to be given to this story, when it is considered our knowledge of their language is so very superficial as scarcely to be understood but by signs; and from Captain Kendrick’s well known disposition, who has hitherto treated these people more like children than an ignorant race of savages; it must therefore be supposed Captain Kendrick has been provoked by these peoples conduct to punish their Chief.

A little after sunset, when most of the canoes were gone, Coyah himself came aboard; he appeared glad to see us, he said Captain Kendrick was good, had been here lately, shewing a blue coat and some blue nankin [nankeen] cloth that he gave him: he said, also, that a Captain Barnard was here four days ago; to whom all their skins were sold; but if we would wait a few days, they would ketch us some; his tarry was short, he appeared to be much frightened, being in a constant tremor the whole time; he departed with a promise of returning again in the morning; but we never saw him afterwards.

Page 212, on July 25, 1791, at “Hatche’s” (Bonilla) Island in apparently Coast Tsimshian territory — again the barebones information from Natives that they have a village nearby:

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at half past three a stragling canoe with two natives came along side of which three sea otters just killed were purchased for a jacket and a knife     these men informed us their village was through a passage between some islands ahead then turn to the northward     

July 30th, 1791 (page 214) at Cumshewa Inlet in Haida Gwaii — another instance of superbasic trading-related information being put across:

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at one in the afternoon two canoes with twelve men came of[f] one of which was a Chief named Comsuah     he brought no skins with him but said he had plenty at his village and requested us to go in and anchor     we stood in towards the village till six when the pinnace was hoisted out and Mr. Haswell was sent in her to seek a harbour     he found one well sheltered from the northerly but open to a southerly wind     at sunset the natives left us with a promise of returning again in the morning with skins if we would wait     at ten in the evening it became calm when we came to with stream anchor and hawser in twenty four fathom water over a muddy bottom three miles distance from the land     the night was calm and rainy.

At day light heard a singing of the natives and shortly after saw two canoes at a great distance coming in from sea     at eight they came along side when the natives in them informed [us] they saw us on the main and had followed us over     they sold us a few skins and then went to Comsuah’s village     ’tis very probable these natives belonged to the same tribe with those that sold us the three sea otters a few days since     this however seems to be a convincing proof that there is a trade carried on between the natives of the island and main     no doubt the latter trade with more remote tribes.

At nine many canoes came of from the village with skins with Comsuah their Chief     at ten a brisk trade commenced which lasted until noon when the wind began to blow a little fresh     they got scared and requested us to go nigher in to their village     on this being refused they left us     

The Natives inform Hoskins that the village here is called “Tooschcondolth” (p. 215).

Pages 218-219, August 7, 1791, at the entrance of Cholmondeley Sound in Haida Gwaii/Kaigani Haida territory in SE Alaska — once again just barebones communication, in which category I include the learning of people’s names:

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At nine in the evening a large canoe made its appearance     there were ten natives in it who after greeting us with a song came aboard     they said they had no skins but that there was a great plenty at Sushin the village they came from     they requested leave to sleep on board which was granted them     At sunrise the next morning [August 8] they left us with a promise of returning again in a few days with skins and went up the sound     At nine a small canoe with four natives came along side in which was an elderly man who appeared to be a Chief named Clinokah

On page 219 we see the ship visiting the northern Haida village of “Sushin” and meeting its chief “named Sinhait” (why does that sound Sm’algyax Tsimshian to me?) on August 9, 1791. That same day and page — great difficulty in communicating:

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In the evening the natives who visited us at Port Tempest returned having their canoes full of dried salmon packt in bails     whether these people had been to purchase these fish or have a party belonging to their village a catching and drying them I could not learn     they again requested permission to sleep on board which was granted.

Nowhere in the pages of this journal by Hoskins do I see even the faintest evidence that Chinook Jargon existed yet along the northern coast, nor that any stabilized, conventionalized pidgin of any sort (be it based on English, Nuuchahnulth, Haida, Tsimshian, Sm’algyax, et al.) was present.

This finding exactly matches what I’ve shown we always find in the the earliest reports of Indigenous & Euro-American contact in those territories.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?