Document 26: Moziño Praises the Nuu-chah-nulth, 1792

José Mariano Moziño, Noticias de Nutka: An Account of Nootka Sound in 1792, edited and translated by Iris H. Wilson Engstrand (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1970), p. 84-86.

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We actually arrived on that island [Nootka] on April 29, 1792, and at that moment began the friendship and good feeling between ourselves and the natives. Never during all the time of our long residence did they give us the slightest reason for displeasure. . . .

It causes me inexpressible wonder to hear various bitter criticisms of the reputation of these natives, when not one example can be cited which could ever serve as proof of their perversity. During the five months that we were living among them, we did not experience one offense on their part. They filled the house of the commandant [Bodega y Quadra] day and night. Maquinna slept in his bedroom; Quio-comasia and Nana-quius did the same in mine. There were many times when more than fifty remained in the living room. The occasions on which some small thefts were noticed were very few, although there were at hand several articles that would have been very convenient for them to possess. Many of our officers went alone and without arms to visit a number of villages, conducted in the savages' own canoes. They always returned impressed by the affection and gentleness they had observed in everyone.

What a pity that they could not in general say the same about us. The [Spanish] sailors, either as a result of their almost brutal upbringing or because they envied the humane treatment the commandant and other officers always gave the natives, insulted them at various times, crippled some and wounded others, and did not fail to kill several. Humanity is the greatest characteristic of civilization. All the advanced sciences and arts have no value if they serve only to make us cruel and haughty.

Several of the natives, especially Nana-quius, Nat-zape, Quio-comasia, and Tata-no, learned to speak quite a bit of our language. The facility with which they grasped most of the things we wanted to explain to them should make us very sorry that the ministers of the Gospel have not taken advantage of such a fine opportunity to plant the Catholic faith among them. I know that the cross-bearers [priests] reported that a mission could not be established here because there was a lack of land that could be cultivated. What a small obstacle! As if a mission and improved land were synonymous! And could not a doctrine that was taught by fishermen in the first place be communicated to those who out of necessity, ignorance, and a lack of resources fellow this profession? What results might have been achieved in four years, had the Spanish not abandoned Nootka or been without a chaplain! That is to say that if they had handled the savages with a little prudence and charity, they would now all be Christians, since they could not contradict the truths [of the church] by either the proud philosophy of the Greeks or the superstition and power of the Romans.

Along with instruction in the principles of the true religion, they could have inspired the Indians with other ideas, whose execution brings well-known advantages to society. Agriculture could have been promoted not by trying to find actual farmland on the beach, or land that would be fertile without any work, but by exploring the interior of the island, clearing a large part of it, and cultivating those things that would be most appropriate to the soil. After so much time, working only little by little, the brush that today makes the mountains inaccessible should have been destroyed, and experiments conducted which would show positively whether or not our crops could be adapted to those parts.

If an area suitable for plantings were lacking here [at Nootka], one without disadvantages could surely be found on the Island of Vancouver [Europeans did not yet know that Nootka Sound was, in fact, on Vancouver Island], which is larger and has a more benign climate because it is situated at a lower latitude. What the travelers say about the inclemency of American lands, compared with European ones of the same latitude, is confirmed by the experience on the East Coast of this continent, where, nevertheless, the continuing efforts of the European colonists have been prosperous.

The summer, without doubt, is the best season in Nootka. If the inhabitants would make their plantings on the slopes of the hillsides, the frequent rains would not drown the roots with the rapid downpour of water, nor would the winds scatter the seeds because of the shelter they would have there.

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