Native First Nations People of Nootka Sound British Columbia B.C.
The History of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht People
Knowing the history of this area will enrich your experience as you paddle from place to place, often stumbling upon evidence of ancient human existence. The Mowachaht/Muchalaht People of the Nuu’chah’nulth First Nations, have called the village of Yuquot, commonly known as Friendly Cove, their home for many millennia. There is archeological evidence of this dating back at least 4,300 years. For most of this time, Chief Maquinna and the Mowachaht population flourished here with a culture based on whaling and river fishing. In the 1700’s, about 1,500 people were living in 20 traditional long wooden houses here when they first encountered the ships of European trader, Captain James Cook.
The 1778 arrival of Captain James Cook is the first documented meeting between Europeans and First Nations People. Cook and his crews are responsible for renaming the native population “Nootka” and for the transforming Yuquot into a late 17 th century trading hub. Cook and his crews first arrived at Resolution Cove, across the Cook Channel from Yuquot. Upon arrival, Mowachaht people shouted “Itchme nutka, Itchme nutka!” which meant, “Go around.” Misunderstanding this, Cook and company thought the natives were offering an introduction, and began calling them “Nootka.” Hence the Nootka Sound and the Nuu-chah’nulth First Nations are commonly referred to as the Nootka First Nations. Many of the names within the Nootka Sound actually come from Captain Cook and his crew. Resolution Cove is named after his ship, the Resolution. The Cook Channel is named for Cook himself and Bligh Island is named after Captain Bligh who sailed with Cook.
For about a decade after his arrival, Captain Cook and his crews maintained a civil trading relationship with Chief Maquinna and the Yuquot people. Chief Maquinna and the natives would trade sea otter pelts to Captain Cook who would then sell them for great profit in China. Chief Maquinna controlled the trade here and the Yuquot enjoyed a brief period of wealth until 1789 when a Spanish expedition built a military post at Yuquot, seizing the British trading ships that Captain Cook had introduced to the area. Trade declined because of this and the people of Yuquot soon recognized that the threats of the European presence outweighed the benefits. In 1803, Chief Maquinna captured the trading ship called Boston, putting an end to trading at Nootka Sound.
The aftermath of the European presence at Nootka Sound has resulted in the long-term depletion of the Yuquot population. This is largely due to European-introduced diseases. In the 19 th century, different tribal groups making up the native population at Nootka Sound merged to what they are today, the Mowachaht. The population is down to 500 people today and artifacts from their history can be observed with a day trip to Yuquot.
The Mowachaht people today remained threatened by the depletion of resources that plague First Nations people throughout Vancouver Island. Large-scale fisheries are among the top predators to the livelihood of the Mowachaht population and several people are active in the fight to control the over-fishing of the area’s salmon.
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