Document 16: Bodega y Quadra Describes the Nuu-chah-nulth, 1792

Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, Voyage to the North West Coast of North America, translated by Katrina H. Moore [?] (unpublished typescript translation of original documents, ca. 1974), Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, p. 43-48.

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The natives are of the most affable disposition, and least desirous of revenge; I have never had to fear one of them; rather do I say that one cannot mistake the confidence that they place in me, and the love that they profess for meónot only the commoners, but the princes themselves; because they frequently stay at my house at night to sleep, [and they generally find their stay more enjoyable than a visit to] the houses of their immediate relatives, so it has not caused me any difficulty in taking the first step with them in humanitarian matters, to which my nature inclines. I constantly treat Maquinna as a friend, singling him out from the rest with the clearest demonstrations of appreciation. He always occupies the first place when he dines at my table, and I myself take the trouble of waiting on him, of serving him with as much as he likes, and he makes a lot of my friendship and much appreciates my visits to his rancherias [homes]. The first time I went, he gave a ball, and he danced solo to the time of the song that his relatives and servants intoned, beating the floor with the heads of spears and muskets to produce the bass in their music, which is rather harmonious. . . . At the end of each short dance, he presented to me, through his brother Qua-tla-za-pe, a very fine otter skin, testifying in loud voice his good-will to me; to the crew of the boats he gave shells and muskets, which for them are always of value. [Perhaps Bodega y Quadra or his translator has made a mistake here. It seems improbable that Maquinna would own enough muskets to give them away to the crew of a Spanish ship.] I recompensed him with a coat of mail, made of tin plate, embroidered in shell fashion, very beautiful, and this he received with extreme appreciation, and amongst his people I distributed trifles that please them most.

As they generally change rancherias each month, I always tried to pay my compliments at the spot that this Chief selected as the new place. When I visited him at Mar-hui-nas [Bay], I managed to see their method of fishing for sardines, details of which I omit, because the sketch that I ordered to be drawn for this purpose illustrates it much better. I waited also on Cop-ti [another Nuu-chah-nulth chief] to congratulate him about his daughter, who, on entering puberty, following the custom of the country, changed her former name of Ape-nas to Es-to-coti Fle-mog. This act was solemnized on the part of the natives by banquets, songs, dances, and contests in which they gave one or two shells to whoever, competing with 20 or 30 competitors, triumphantly got a piece of wood that had been thrown from the balcony where the princess presented herself to public view. My sailors likewise entered the arena, and were rewarded with fine skins and applauded by all the spectators.

[Chiefs] Qui-co-ma-cia and Flu-pananul also gave feasts in my honor; the former gave a masked dance in which he represented the movements of various animals, and the latter gave an exhibition on the water in one of the largest canoes that I have seen, whose rowers rowed three times to our ships, harmoniously striking the gunwales with the paddles and singing a hymn of friendship.

I could, perhaps, flatter myself that, treating these Indians as men should be treated and not as though they were individuals of inferior stock, I have lived in complete peace, even if some [incidents] did make me suspicious of the infidelity of the Indians. [Nevertheless], I would say that all these Indians generally lack bitterness, because they never took revenge, even when they found themselves wronged by some of the perverse [members of my crew. Such perverse men are] always to be found in crews in spite of orders. [These crewmen's] disobedience was punished, which served as a warning to them and gave to the Indiana an idea of our justice.

None of the chiefs ever stole any of the various chattels that could have been so easily taken by them in my house; rather did they restore various things stolen by their slaves, whose tendency to be dishonest has been either weakened in the extreme or has not been as great as others have considered it to be. These unhappy beings [the slaves of the Nuu-chah-nulth chiefs] were the perpetual conductors of my sailors from the shore to the ship, without any more reward than a piece of sea biscuit, of which they are extremely fond.

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