Ucluelet, 1859

"Euclueliat village, Barclay Sound, Vancouver Island, N.W. Coast. H.M.S. Satellite" pen and ink and watercolor drawing 1859 Mar. Source: Yale. Click for original, click through for large size.

The above is a rendering of Ucluelet Inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, made in 1859.  You can clearly see the aboriginal village to the right. Artfully, the artist has caught a whale hunt at the exact moment of harpooning in the foreground.   I’ve zoomed in on the village below.

Detail of Ucluelet Inlet village.

Interestingly, the next picture in this folio from Yale University is labelled as a “Songhee” Village (below), yet rather than a Victoria area settlement, it fairly clearly shows what I think is another Ucluelet-area village, with the distinctive saddle-shaped hill to the east side of the inlet.  (The trees are different which makes me think it is a different one than above) Anyway, nothing earth-shaking but I had never seen these historic drawings before.

Songhee? Village. North West Coast Vancouver Island. Barclay Sound. H.M.S. Satellite." pen and ink and watercolor drawing 1859 Mar. Source: Yale. Click for original, then click through for large size.

23 responses to “Ucluelet, 1859

  1. This link is to the book Gunboat Frontier. Pages 111 and 112 detail the 1859 Satellite visit to Barkley Sound after sinking of the Swiss Boy by Indians. The man that saved a number of lives from the Swiss Boy and also was the interpreter/guide on the Satellite was a Makah named Swell or Wha-latl in Makah.


    Here is a painting by James G. Swan of Wha-latl’s monument – he was killed March 1, 1861 or 2 years after the HMS Satellite’s trip to Barkley Sound.


    • Q. – that reference to Swan’s diaries is fascinating reading. I have wanted to see his diaries for decades, and now I can. Thanks for the link.
      I went through looking at references to Swell/Wha-laltl. Seems that he and Swan were friendly, maybe even friends. Unfortuantely, there is no obvious mention of the Swiss Boy incident – it would have been interesting to hear Wha-laltl’s (Swan spelling) version of those events.
      There is a long account of Wha-laltl’s death:
      1861, March 5th “… report that Swell was killed by the Leah Indians and that the goods belonging to Mr. Webster that he was carrying down to Neah Bay were laying on the beach at Elwa.”
      1861, March 8th “Swell left Old Dungeness about 7 p.m. and went as far as the west head of Crescent Bay. This was on Friday night March the 1st. About midnight he was killed. He had camped and 4 Elwahs came in a canoe apparently friends – asked Swell for some tobacco which he gave them. They then started for the canoe and one without any cause picked up a gun and shot Swell and left. Swell’s people then took him and put him into the canoe and put off but In their fright ran their canoe on a reef of rocks and split her in two.”
      This is followed by a couple of pages of Swan’s investigation into the incident from the Clallam point of view and Makah and sporadic subsequent mentions involving future reprisals and so on.
      1861, March 20th “… I went with him [Peter, Swell’s brother] to commence the monument to Swell. We nailed 4 spars in a pyramid form and having secured them I left and commenced painting. When the boards are dry we will finish the monument.
      1861, April 1st “… finished the monument to Swell.”

      All very interesting. These journals are a gold mine. And supplemented by Swan’s sketches at Yale. I hope someone is editing them for publication.


  2. wow, this is a great re-oriented find for this area of the coast. I wonder where these villages are….
    I suspect they could be two views from ‘Stuart Bay’ the safe anchorage with a view up the inlet? If so, the village pictured with the whaling scene would be South Ittatsoo (DfSi-39)?


  3. Thanks APM – great to have that background information on what the gunboat was doing up there.

    Twoeyes — it should be pretty easy to compare — I thought it must be South Ittatsoo as well based on google earth but I don’t know the area that well. If you go by the doors rather than the more ambiguous house edges, then I count 15 doors in the top picture, which is a pretty substantial village.


  4. I support your retroactively claimed view through Google earth as Ittatsoo south – this makes the most sense although I thought for a brief moment that it might have been T’ukw’aa! In RAAD this site measures 180 m across which with your count of 15 houses would put this somewhere around ~12 m wide houses.

    I wonder if Ucluelet have this image in their archives?

    As for the second image, I was initially thinking the site at the modern Stuart Bay Reserve (just south of Ittatsoo) but this does not match up very well with the mountain arrangement in the background or anywhere else in Ucluelet Inlet that I could see (via google earth of course). Where else could this be? Could it be Hiikwis in Sechart Channel?!? The mountain background there looks more plausible….


    • Well, I did look for about 60 seconds in google earth, that’s how committed I am to online scholarship. Interesting thought on Hiikwis for the second one – I thought it must be Ucluelet also because I thought that looked like the big logged hill behind town.

      I tried to make it fit with Opitsat plus Lone Cone, but this view, even moving the point of view to the left, doesn’t really quite work.


  5. twoeyes – the link I provided says that the ship spent most of its time with the Ohiet, but also visited Sheshat, Uchucklesaht and Opetchisaht villages. Could be any of those, or others, since Ucluluet is not one of the ones mentioned. The ships log will exist – would be interesting to see exactly where they did anchor, and where their boats went from the anchorages. With a bit of work, it is likely that both these locations could be identified. Now, if I could get Google Earth to work on my machine, I would go searching…


  6. qmackie – you have spawned quite a lot of off-line discussion about the location of these images. I hope that those people move their discussion on-line as it is interesting.

    One thing I would like to point out is that the catalogue for the second image reads “Songhee?”. This suggest to me that there is likely a handwritten note attached somehow to that image which the cataloguer was unable to decipher and made a guess On that basis, the village name is likely to be something leading with an S or like it. Just as the Ucluluet group name has been applied to the village of South Ittatsoo it is likely that the label for this drawing applies a group name to a village.

    How they would have rendered Tseshaht in those days is unknown, but I would put my money on one of their villages in Barkley Sound.


    • Thinking about it a bit more – Sechart Channel probably reflects the way that Tseshaht would have been rendered in the middle of the 1800’s, as I believe Barkley Sound charts were made in detail at about the same time. Could a scribbled “Sechart” be mistaken for something like “Songhee”? Songhees is possibly the only other village/people name a long-ago cataloguer in Ern USA would know from Vancouver Island that is remotely similar to Sechart. Someone will have to write to the library and see if they can get a photocopy of the catalogue info on which the label is based.


  7. APM, I agree this discussion is very interesting and fun. Thanks so much for your insight-fully direct link to Gough’s 1984 book passage by the way. I will happily continue to contribute to this ad hoc, online ‘scholarship’.

    I’ve located a reference to “Se-sharti” tribe in a 1994 UBC MA thesis (Wallace 1993:149) which may help explain or solve the Songhee? terminology problem (see below).

    This author also has a fascinating account in a chapter on “race relations” where he describes a visit by the HMS Hecate to Barkley Sound in 1861 (two years after the HMS Satellite drawing pictured above). Apparently the ships were there to investigate trader complaints about thefts and find opportunities to chastise, intimidate and/or fire on First Nation village communities. This of course is also soon-after Gilbert Sproat and Capt. Stamp had just established their ‘timber mill’ at the head of Alberni Inlet in 1860. The account is narrated by an aggressive (and utterly racist/Victorian) sounding John Thomas Gowlland, a second master aboard the HMS Hecate:

    “In Dodger’s Cove [on western Diana Island in the Deer Group], HMS Hecate had encountered the Ohiat Indians”.

    ‘They are the most treacherous, thieving lot of rascals, that cannot be trusted out of sight,’ noted Gowllands.

    On June 2, 1861, the survey party also encountered the Se-sharti tribe. Gowlland laconically noted that they “like the Ohiats…,”

    “are a set of rascals, and one cannot be too cautious or too effacing in transactions with them as they will steal whilst looking you in the face and so adroitly that sometime, they will escape detection, and assume a most injured innocent appearance…”

    Twelve miles to the east were the Uclulet tribe,
    “the most powerful and warlike tribe in Barclay Sound, numbering 500 fighting men all well armed, but like their native brothers, a set of rascally thieves, – they would be only too glad to murder all the boats crew for the sake of the utensils in her only knowing us to be a man-of-war, of which they have a wholescale dread, are afraid of the consequences.”

    Quoted from Wallace 1993:149

    So ‘Se-sharti’ must be Tseshaht, as this community is sequentially visited after visiting (Ohiaht to the south) and on their way north (to Uclulet harbour). The description of Uclulet also sounds very much like what we’ve seen in the pictures of South Ittatsoo (15 houses= “500 fighting men”).

    What incredibly interesting times and how dramatically they contrast with the peaceful scenic depictions of idyllic NWC village life shown above. I wonder what the biography of the artist is, in what context the images were used (to demonstrate pacified ‘tribes’?). and how varied perspectives were within the gunboat crew and colonial officials onboard…

    Wallace, Richard William
    1993 Charting the Northwest Coast 1857-62: A Case Study in the Use of “Knowledge as Power” in Britain’s Imperial Ascendency. MA Thesis, University of British Columbia. Page 149

    The thesis is a maritime focused history of the dispute between Canada and the US, specifically discussing the role of gunboats in ‘enforcing the coast’ during this tenuously nascent colonial period.
    Available for free from https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/5013


  8. wow UVic’s humanities folk are totally awesome for digitizing these (as well as for the British Colonist archives http://www.britishcolonist.ca/

    How can we encourage them to finish 1859!


  9. Thanks qmackie for posting those images of Barkley Sound villages in 1859 and Iain for notifying me about them. I had no idea that they existed.
    The village with the whaling scene is clearly Itatsoo, as seen from around Stuart Bay as you enter Ucluelet Inlet . You can recognize the setting (with the beach and houses extending over the higher land to the left) today at the south end of the Ucluelet reserve community.
    The other village is the interesting one. The setting suggested to Iain that it may be Hiikwis (on the modern “Equis” reserve on Sechart Channel at the top of the sound). I think he may very well be right. If so, this would be exciting as we have virtually no other images of this village when it was a major occupied Tseshaht community.
    We know from Gough’s Gunboat Diplomacy (thanks Al for the online reference) that HMS Satellite visited the main Tseshaht village of the time. The library catalogue indicated “Songhees” but puts that term in brackets and with a question mark. Clearly it wasn’t legible but possibly started with a capital S (followed by a scrawl). The spelling Sechart was in common use for the Tseshaht (and their village) at that time. It’s a bit of a stretch from Songhees to Sechart, but maybe…
    I don’t have any pictures among those that I took in the field that really show the background behind the village. But an aerial photo of the sound (published in the Ts’ishaa monograph on page 4) shows that the mountain behind the site has a very similar shape to the one in the historic image. When we go back out this coming season we will certainly take a good look to see if the scenery behind Hiikwis lines up in the same way. So we should be able then to be fairly confident about the attribution – or can reject it.


    • amcmillan (or someone that is in the know) – you say above: “When we go back out this coming season we will certainly take a good look to see if the scenery behind Hiikwis lines up in the same way.”

      So, what is your conclusion. Is the image of Hiikwis?


  10. For completeness, there is one more drawing at that Yale site referenced to “Barclay” Sound. It doesn’t have a lot of archaeological interest, but is a cute drawing by Swan (no chance he is the artist of the village scenes is there? Yale has his sketchbooks, and frankly he is not that good a draughtsman, and he would be interested in drawing aboriginal villages). Anyway this drawing is

    “Indian Boy – seen on Barclay Sound in a little schooner rigged boat dug out of a log – about 3 feet long by 18 inches wide – Boy about 6 years old”



    • I see Swan’s diaries are online at UW – don’t see any mention of HMS Satellite though there is an interesting account of him digging for Spanish bricks at Yuquot.



    • There is another early “archaeological” account of examining a burial mound. It is in:
      An Account of a Voyage to the North-West Coast of America in 1785 and 1786 by Alexander Walker by Robin Fisher; J. M. Bumsted p142-143. The location is one of several mounds beside a village site in Prince William Sound. The village and houses are also described in some detail. September 6, 1785:

      “At the West End of the Village, we discovered several Mounds of Earth, carefully covered with long stripes of Pine Bark. Curiosity induced us to open one of these, which was distinguished from the rest by its size and Ornaments. We found it to be a Grave. After removing the Bark that was spread over it, we came to a layer of Earth, then to one of smoothed Planks, and next to which was a layer of Chingle, and under all, another row of Bark. Having removed all these coverings, we discovered the Corps. It was laid on its Back in a Coffin without a cover, and so short as to require the Knees of the Body to be bent. The deceased appeared to have been a Stout middle aged Man. He was wrapped up in five or six Skins; a string of blue Beads was tied round one of his knees, and beside him were deposited his Cloaths, Buskins, &c. We returned every thing into the Grave, as nearly in the order, in which we found them, as possible. At the head of this Grave there was a square Board erected; it had a hole in the center, and was painted with red waved lines. On each side of this was erected a long slender Pole, on the Top of which were suspended two Boards, cut out in the human form, and painted red. The Articles which were thus deposited in the Grave were the most useful and valuable Property that the Person had Possessed in his lifetime. It was a sacrifice on the part of those who survived, the Value of which we can only estimate, by imagining it were a practice amongst ourselves, to lodge in the Coffin, all our Personal Riches and Property. “


  11. Hey Everyone,
    Nice to hear all your comments about these images. I recently went by boat from Ucluelet to Bamfield and I consciously tried to hunt out these possible spots along the way. I only went through Peacock passage (but I did make it to Equis) on my way through the Broken Group so I may have missed something important over by Dicebox or Clarke and Benson Island. As well, since I was going home, I did not get to explore Effingham Inlet or Toquart either (but I think the mountains are way too tall over by Toquart).
    Anyways, here’s what I observed:
    Leaving Ucluelet, with a bit of artistic license, the “saddle shaped” hill (now with a gulf ball on top) or Mt Ozzard could possibly be the background in our second picture. However, it does take a bit of artistic license since the beach looks quite a lot different, but maybe that’s because I went when the tide was in and development of the area has changed the visible shoreline quite a bit with wharfs and such.
    The little fluffy island in the first picture could be Lyche Island in Ucluelet Harbour, but the perspective seems far too squashed. Hand drawings, however, are bound to produce some distortion. So maybe we have a positive ID for Port Albion/Itatsoo side of Ucluelet Harbour- tentatively, that is.
    Equis firmly does not fit as a possibility for either of the images. Equis is located on a flat bit of land (which turns into Lyle point as you go West) and the mountains/hills are much further back than the dominating ones portrayed here. The lay of the land is simple all wrong.
    I took plenty of pictures to substantiate my claim, but I am technically bewildered as to how to post them. So if we want me to defend my views email me and I’ll send them to you.
    PS. Its great to see so much discussion about this area- Awesome blog!


  12. Hi Stella,

    Wow, thanks for taking pictures and thinking about the location of these early depictions of Ucluelet and Barkley Sound, which appear to be new to even long-standing researchers of this area. Pinning down the locations of these would be quite important since they may be the first and/or only historic representations of this age of these villages, and thus of interest to First Nations as well as to researchers and the public too!

    If you like, you can email me your pictures [qmackie @ gmail] and, with your permission, I will post them here. I think if they are close to the point of view in the sketches, and taken together with your observations as, I think, a long time Sound resident, it would be worth making a new post on this topic and perhaps generate some new discussion.


  13. funny, i just saw one of these images on a US National Park page which identifies this image as a Coast Salish village and suggests it is near San Juan Island http://www.nps.gov/sajh/historyculture/the-first-ones.htm


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