I found some interesting images at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These come from a book published in 1787: Costumes civils actuels de tous les peuples, volume 4: Americas by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur (1757-1810). Needless to say, it’s one of the earliest publications with NW Coast content, comprising four plates and 14 pages of “customs” of Nootka Island (Nuu-chah-nulth territory). I’m not entirely sure where Grasset de Saint-Sauveur would have got his inspiration from – Cook’s journals most likely? You can see all the plates from the four volumes at the LACMA (great images from around the world), or you can read and download the entire book here. But why bother, when I extract the information for you below.
In the detail above, I am sure twoeyes will be interested in the fish, self-evidently (bait warning) these are hake, or salmon. The peculiar gourd-like objects attracted a bit of discussion in this previous post on the Webber interior scene at Nootka. That images dates from 1778, and may well provide the visual inspiration for these ones. You can see the strong similarity in the cloak style between the images. The use of double-poles to support house planks is also roughly accurate. I hear that twoeyes counted well over 2,000 preserved fish in the interior of that Webber image, a fishy fact he slapped his committee around with at his recent Ph.D. oral defence.
These images are a bit like trading cards of world clothing. I wouldn’t place too much stock in them. This “Kamchatka Peasant“, for example, is incongruously set in front of some palm trees. All the same, the decorated hat, probably showing a whale, in the above picture is not obviously the same one as the women wear in the Webber image.
The picture of a man above has a plausible bent-wood box in the frame. I’ve seen a number of ethnographic examples of low-rise boxes like this one, in contrast to the chest-shaped ones which are more or less cubes. I’m not sure what to make of the red and yellow hairpiece.
The warrior above has a pretty fearsome club with a realistic human head. Cook was greeted at Yuquot with human body parts but I’m not aware of anything quite like this artifact! In the accompanying text, de Saint-Sauveur describes armour, and it doesn’t resemble this image much at all, apart from the feathers. My poor translation:
The Nootka inhabitants also have a specialized war garment. It’s a coat made of double and triple-ply leather … it covers the chest to the neck and down to the heels. It is sometimes covered with pleasant painted panels. It is strong enough to resist puncture, even pikes could not puncture it. Therefore they treat it like a complete defensive armour of chain-mail. [continues to discuss war drums, feathers etc.. page 258]
I suppose the image does show a long coat, or cloak, reaching to the ankles, but it leaves the nethers rather unprotected, one would think. I should leave it up to the ethnohistorical specialists to fill me in on this document.
By the way, there are also two nice plates depicting clothing of Oonolashka (Unalaska, in the Aleutians), in addition to the “Nootka” ones. Previous posts on Webber in Nootka Sound: watercolour scene, house interior, village scene.