Document 4: First Contacts, by Father Thomas de la Peña, 1774

"Journal of Fray Tomas de la Peña" in The California Coast: A Bilingual Edition of Documents from the Sutro Collection, edited and translated by Donald C. Cutter and George Griffin Butler (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), p. 121-23, 157-61.

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After dawn, on the 20th [of July, 1774,] the wind came from east-southeast, and the ship's head was put on a course north [by] northeast, the fog continuing very dense and wet. About nine o'clock the course was altered to east-northeast, that we might examine the low land that showed at the end of the point. At ten o'clock it was noted from the masthead that it consisted of three small islands which were near to the mainland. These the Captain named the Islands of Santa Margarita [These are now called the Queen Charlotte Islands]. About three in the afternoon . . . we saw bonfires on the land, and presently there came to us a canoe with nine men in it. This canoe drew near to the vessel, the pagans in it singing; but they would not come near enough for us to communicate by means of signs. [These so-called pagans were Haida Indians.] Having followed us for some time, they returned to the land. About five o'clock this canoe, and another in which there were six pagans, caught up with us, both drawing up to our stern. The Captain made them a present of some strings of beads and they gave us some dried fish. But they would not come on board the ship. These persons are well-built, white, with long hair; and they were clothed in pelts and skins, some of them were bearded. They had some iron implements in their canoes, but we were unable to inquire where they obtained them, for presently they went back to land, inviting us thither, and offering to give us water on the following day. About six o'clock there arrived another canoe with seven pagans, who drew near, singing the same air the others had sung. These followed us for about an hour without being willing to come aboard the ship. When at length they went back to land we were about eight leagues from it, and there was a high sea on. Their canoes resemble those used in Santa Barbara Channel, but are [larger]. This afternoon the wind was in the southeast, and at ten o'clock it died away entirely.

This morning, it being the 21st, there was a dense fog. . . . About half past two [o'clock], canoes, some larger than others, all full of pagans, began to arrive. The larger canoes were twelve or thirteen yards in length, and appeared to be of a single piece, excepting that there was planking along the sides and at the bow. In these canoes were some two hundred persons; in one there were counted twenty-one, in another nineteen, while in the others were five, seven, twelve and fifteen. One canoe contained twelve or thirteen women and no men. In others, also, there were women but the majority consisted of men. At the time the women's canoe arrived at the ship it happened that its prow struck that of another canoe whose occupants were men and broke it; at this the men became very angry, and one of them, seizing the prow of the women's canoe, broke it to pieces in order to repay their carelessness. All the afternoon these canoes, twenty-one in all, were about the ship, their occupants trading with the ship's people, for which purpose they had brought a great quantity of mats, skins of various kinds of animals and fish, hats made of rushes and caps made of skins, bunches of feathers arranged in various shapes, and, above all, many coverlets, or pieces of woven woolen stuffs very elaborately embroidered and about a yard and a half square, with a fringe of the same wool about the edges and various figures embroidered in different colors. [It is unlikely that the Haida possessed any woolen goods because they had no domesticated animals. Peña probably misidentified some other fabric.] Our people bought several of all these articles, in return for clothing, knives and beads. It was apparent that what they liked most were things made of iron; but they wanted large pieces with a cutting edge, such as swords, wood-knives and the like—for, on being shown [metal hooks] they intimated that these were of trifling value, and, when offered barrel hoops, they signified that these had no edge. Two of the pagans came aboard the ship, and were much pleased with the vessel and things on board it. Their women have the lower lip pierced, and [hanging] therefrom a flat round disk; we were unable to learn the significance of this, nor of what material the disk was made. Their dress consists of a cape with a fringe about the edge and a cloth reaching to the feet, made of their woven woolen stuff, or of skins, and covering the whole body. Their hair is long and falls in braids to the shoulder. They are as fair and rosy as any Spanish woman, but are rendered ugly by the disk they have in the lip, which hangs to the chin. The men also are covered, with the skins or with the woven cloths of wool, and many have capes like those of the women; but they do not hesitate about remaining naked when they can sell their clothing. At six o'clock, taking leave of us, they made for the land, and they made evident their desire that we should go thither. Some sailors went down into the canoes, and the pagans painted their faces with delight and shouts of joy. These pagans gave us to understand that we should not pass on to the northward because the people there were bad and shot arrows and killed. How common it is for pagans to say that all are bad except themselves!
. . .

On the 8th [of August, 1774], the wind came from the east, light and variable, and the course was north. . . . At about eleven o'clock we caught sight of land. . . . The land which we saw bore northeast, about six leagues away [a league is three miles]; it was rather high and covered with forest. In the southeast there was a point stretching out to the sea. All morning the ship made three miles an hour. At midday the navigating officers took an observation. Don Esteban told me that our position was 49° 05´. [The expedition was therefore probably near Barkley Sound or Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.] About four o'clock three canoes came out to us; in one were four men, three in another, and two in the third. [These people were almost certainly Nuu-chah-nulth. Several different groups of Nuu-chah-nulth lived on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula.] They remained at some distance from the ship, crying out and making gestures that we should go away. After some time, we having made signs to them that they should draw near without fear, they did so, and we gave them to understand that we were in search of water; but they could not have been very satisfied with our signs, and went back to land. In going back they met with two other canoes which were coming out to the ship; but, after communication had between them, they turned back towards the land. At six [o'clock], having arrived within about a league of land, . . . the ship came to anchor, so that on the following day we might go ashore and take possession of the land in the name of the King Our Lord. At the time of anchoring the wind had died away completely. About eight o'clock at night three canoes, with fifteen pagans in them came to us; but they remained at a distance from the ship, their occupants crying out in a mournful tone of voice. We called to them, and they drew near. Shortly afterward they said goodbye, but, until after eleven o'clock, they remained at a distance of about a musket-shot from the ship, talking among themselves and sometimes crying out. The canoes of these pagans are not so large as those we saw at Point Santa Margarita in latitude 55° [where they met the Haida Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands]. The largest are about eight yards in length, with a long prow, hollowed out, and their sterns are blunter. The paddles are very handsome and are painted and are shaped like a shovel with a point about a quarter of a yard long at the end. These canoes appear to be of a single piece; though not all of them, for we saw some of the pieces bound together. All are very well made.

The 9th dawned calm and clear towards the northwest, but in other quarters there was fog. Having been aroused, the crew began to get the longboat over the side, in order to go ashore. While this was going on there arrived fifteen canoes with about a hundred men and women. We gave them to understand that they might draw near without fear, and presently they came to us and began to trade with our people what they brought in their canoes, which consisted only of skins of otters and other animals, hats of rushes, painted and with the crown pointed, and cloths woven of a kind of hemp, having fringes of the same, with which they clothe themselves, most of them wearing a cape of this material. Our people bought several of these articles, in exchange for old clothes, shells which we had brought from Monterey and some knives; for these and the shells they manifested greater liking. We did not see cloths woven of wool among them, as at Santa Margarita [the Queen Charlotte Islands], nor are they so fully clothed as were those natives. These women do not have a disk [hanging] from the lip. In the possession of this people were seen some implements of iron and copper.

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