Tag Archives: Nuu-chah-nulth

ASBC Victoria, September Meeting: The Spanish at Yuquot: Santa Cruz de Nutka

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 11.51.20 PMThe Archaeological Society of BC winter lecture series kicks off this Tuesday September 27th at the University of Victoria, with a talk by Dr.Pablo Restrepo-Gautier from UVIC’s Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies.  Note that the talk is in a new room compared to last year: Cornett A129 – same building but on the south side.  The text of the invite is below.  The talk is free and open to the public.  Prior to the meeting the ASBC will hold a short AGM.

Details of the talk are below: Continue reading

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Images of Nootka Island People, 1787

Nootka Sound girl, 1787.  by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.

Nootka island girl, 1787. by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.

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.

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Peabody Museum Ethnographic Collection

Haida carved cockle. Source: Peabody.

The Peabody Museum at Harvard has a predictably great collection from the Northwest Coast.  I’m more drawn to the archaeological-type artifacts vs. the masks and baskets and argillite, but fill your eyes with the charming Haida carving of a cockle, above, collected in “Massett Bay”.

One nice thing about this collection is the accession ledger is also scanned in and made available.  For example, if you go the the page for the cockle above here, you can click on the cockle picture for a higher resolution, on the first ledger page for the left hand side of the ledger book, and on the second for the right hand side.  It is possible in this way to do some ad hoc fact checking of their descriptions to finding additional information. For example, the cockle’s second page contains the notation “taken from the interior of R/200”.  Accession number R/200 turns out to be this unusual ?argillite carved box with inlaid shell.

Some of the other objects are equally unusual – I’d say there are more “wow – never seen one of those before” moments in this collection than any other I have seen.

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Webber’s Village in Nootka Sound: Original Watercolour

Painting of a village in Nootka Sound, 1778, by John Webber. Source: State Library of New South Wales. Click for larger original.

Yesterday I linked to the original watercolour of a 1778 Nootka Sound house interior by John Webber, which is the basis for the widely reproduced engraving.  Today we can take a look at Webber’s original painting of a Nootka Sound village, presumably Yuquot but not so labelled, as found at the State Library of New South Wales (though yesterday’s post brought forth questions as to whether these are watercolours or coloured engravings – see the comments).  The first and most important point is, see that lumpy, dissected landform in front of the houses?  That, my friends, is what an active shell midden looks like.  No wonder they can be such stratigraphic nightmares.

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Webber’s House Interior: Original Watercolour

1778 Watercolour by John Webber of the interior of a house in Nootka Sound. Source: State Library of New South Wales. Click for original.

A few days ago I posted a beautiful watercolour of Nootka Sound by John Webber, artist on Cook’s third voyage.  In the ensuing discussion, it was brought up how nice it would be to see the original watercolours of more of his paintings, which often formed the basis for the  numerous engraved reproductions which are what one normally sees.  The loss of information in moving from the original to the engraving is something of an unknown quantity, and I for one had never seen the watercolours.  Until yesterday!

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Webber in Nootka Sound, 1778

Detail of a Nootka Sound watercolour by John Webber, 1778. Click to enlarge. Source: British Museum.

From the British Museum, a superb watercolour:

Nootka Sound, on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island in Canada, was discovered by Captain Cook in his two ships, Resolution and Discovery in 1778. This drawing records this bay and some of its inhabitants. It is drawn in ink, pencil and wash and watercolours. The artist, John Webber (1751-93), accompanied Captain Cook on his third voyage of exploration in the South Seas and Pacific Ocean, which lasted for four years from 1776 to 1780. Webber was one of several artists employed to record the peoples, animals birds, fishes, plants and landscapes of the newly discovered Pacific Islands.

The written descriptions of the location are confirmed by the drawing. It is severe and inhospitable. High cliffs, rocks that reach right down into the sea, and the jagged shore line gave it a ‘melancholy appearance’. The terrible weather, which left the trees ‘mutilated by rough gales’ contrasted greatly with the tropical scenes ans palm trees enjoyed by the explorers in Tahiti.

Webber also drew the native people. Their clothing, basically the same for men as for women, consisted of a woven cloth, fastened at the shoulder or neck. According to Captain Cook, the cloth was the bark of the pine tree, beaten flat like a sort of rough felt. The head was covered with a conical hat made of matting. It is probable that Webber modified the drawing for the sake of decency and for public viewing. Cook described the men’s dress as generally bare in the ‘… Middles, nor are they ashamed to appear naked’.

It’s not clear what the kneeling man on the right is doing: is he using a mussel shell to dig?  Several harpoons complete with foreshafts seem to be visible.  It is a skillful and atmospheric rendering of Nuu-chah-nulth life shortly after first contact with Europeans.


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.