Document 5: First Contacts, Father Juan Crespi, 1774

"Journal of Fray Juan Crespi" 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. 225-41, 255-59.

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At daybreak on Wednesday the 20th [of July, 1774], there was a very thick fog, so that at a short distance nothing could be seen. There was a drizzling rain and an east wind so strong that the ship was tossed about continually. . . . Before nine o'clock the weather lightened, so that we made out the land very well. . . . About three in the afternoon we were some two leagues from the land, and what had appeared to us to be three islands now seemed to be one, not very distant from the land. [The expedition had reached the Queen Charlotte Islands.] We saw many bonfires of its inhabitants [the Haida], and that it was a land densely covered with trees, apparently pines.

And we noticed that a canoe came out from a break in the land like the mouth of a river and was paddled toward the ship. While it was still distant from the vessel we heard the people in it singing, and by the intonation we knew that they were pagans, for it was the same sung at the dances of pagans from San Diego to Monterey. Presently they drew near to the ship and we saw that they were eight men and a boy. Seven of them were paddling; the other, who was advanced in years, was upright and making dancing movements. Throwing several feathers into the sea, they made a turn about the ship. From the cabin we called out to them that they should draw near; and, although at first they did not venture to do this because of some fear they entertained, after showing them handkerchiefs, beads and biscuit, they came near to the stern of the ship and took all that was thrown to them. A rope was thrown to them, that they might come on board; although they took hold of it they did not venture to ascend it, but, keeping hold of it, they went on with us for a considerable distance.

. . . The pagans, seeing that we were going away from their country, invited us thither, and we knew, or understood from their signs, that they told us there were provisions and abundant water there and a place where the ship might anchor; and, we replying by signs that on the following day we would go thither, they went away.

These pagans are corpulent and fat, having good features with a red and white complexion and long hair. They were clothed in skins of the otter and the seawolf, as it seemed to us, and all, or most of them, wore well woven hats of rushes, the crown running up to a point. They are not noisy brawlers, all appearing to us to be of a mild and gentle disposition.

About half an hour after the departure of the canoe we heard singing again and we saw another canoe, smaller than the first, which joined the other, and the two came together to the ship. In the second canoe came six pagans. Both canoes drew near to the stern of the ship and we gave these people various trifles, telling them that on the day following we would visit their country. After having followed us for some time they went away, all very content.

These canoes seemed to us to be of a single piece of wood except the gunwale. They are well made. . . . In these canoes we saw two very large harpoons for fishing and two axes. One of these seemed, on account of the shining appearance of the edge, to be of iron; but I could not verify this. We saw that the head of one of the harpoons was of iron, and it looked like that of a boarding-pike [used aboard a European ship].

After the canoes had gone away and night had fallen, and we were all reciting the rosary of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, we again heard singing. This proceeded from another canoe, which drew near with the same ceremonies observed by the others. Seeing that no attention was paid to them, because we were at prayers, the people in the canoe began to cry out, and they continued shouting until such time as the daily recital of the rosary and special prayers to some saints were concluded and the hymn of praise, which caused great admiration on their part, was sung. As it was now dark the Captain ordered lights to the side of the frigate, and we saw that another canoe, containing seven pagans, had arrived. They were asked to come aboard the ship, but either they did not wish to do so or they did not understand the signs made to them. They were given some little things of trifling value, and gave us in return some dried fish which seemed to be cod, although it was whiter.

A sailor obtained in exchange for a large knife he gave them, a hat of rushes, well woven of several colors. The crown was conical and about a third of a vara in height [a vara is a bit smaller than a yard], while the brim was not more than a sixth of a vara in its breadth. For a large knife, also, another sailor obtained a piece of stuff about a square vara in size; it was very showy, apparently woven of fine palm leaves. The colors were black and white, and woven in little checks; it was a very good and showy piece of work. This canoe remained alongside about an hour, when, on our telling them by signs that they should go away, for it was very late, and that on the following day we would go to their land, they went away content. They had to go six leagues [a league is three miles], for we were already at that distance from land.

The dawn of Thursday, the 21st, was not so foggy as that of the preceding days, although there was a drizzling rain and it blew strong from the southeast, with a heavy sea running. At eight o'clock we went . . . toward the point we saw yesterday, which the Captain named Point Santa Margarita, because it was seen yesterday, which was the day of that glorious saint. We [wished to land there] in order to plant there the standard of the holy cross. But it was not possible to make that point, nor to make sure whether it was an island or a point of the mainland, for the force of the current threw us to the southward. . . .

Point Santa Margarita is a hill of medium height close to the seaside and is very thickly covered with a growth of trees to the water's edge, seemingly cypresses of all sizes. This hill is about a league long. . . . But as I have said, we could not reach this place for the current carried us away from it. Beyond this east-southeast point of the hill the land is low and trends to the eastward for ten leagues, or more, where it ended so far as we could see. We saw that this land was as covered with cypresses as the point was.

North of the southwest point of Santa Margarita, and about sixteen leagues from it, we saw a very high cape, also covered with trees. This the Captain named Cape Santa Maria Magdalena. Beyond this cape the coast consists of very high land covered with timber as far as we could distinguish it. On this coast, and bearing northwest [by] west, we made out an island which was named Santa Cristina. It lies northwest and southeast, and is about sixteen leagues southwest of Point Santa Margarita. But we were uncertain whether it was an island, or not, because there may be some low land connecting it with the main. As it was so far off we could not resolve this doubtful point. . . .

Cape Santa Maria Magdalena lies north and south with the southwest point of Santa Margarita. Between this cape and the land to the eastward of it there is an opening about ten leagues in width, where there is a great bay, or gulf, whence came the said current which carried us to the southward. Because of the strength of this current we could not examine nor enter it; therefore we do not know whether it be bay or gulf or strait. If it is not a strait and is a bay, it may be that some great river empties into it, and that this is the cause of the strong current which prevented our entrance and examination. . . . After the calm had lasted twelve hours and the ship was about a league from land, off the southwest point or hill of Santa Margarita, canoes began to put out; and, in a short time twenty-one canoes had come near to us. Some were very large; others of medium size; others small. Among them were two, neither of which would measure less than twelve varas along the keel; in one of these were twenty men and in the other nineteen. In the canoes of medium size there were ten or twelve persons, and in the smallest not less than six or seven. In a short time we saw ourselves surrounded by these twenty-one canoes, which contained more than two hundred persons, between men, women, boys and girls—for in the greater number of the canoes there were some women. Among the canoes was one containing only women, some twelve in number, and they alone paddled and managed the canoe as well as the most expert sailors could.

These canoes came alongside without their occupants manifesting the least distrust; they were singing and playing instruments of wood fashioned like drums or timbrels, and some were making movements like dancing. They drew close to the ship, surrounding her on all sides, and presently there began between them and our people a traffic, and we soon knew that they had come for the purpose of bartering their supplies for ours. The sailors gave them knives, old clothing and beads, and they in return gave skins of the otter and other animals unknown, very well tanned and dressed; coverlets of otter skins sewn together so well that the best tailor could not sew them better; other coverlets, or blankets of fine wool, or the hair of animals that seemed like wool, finely woven and ornamented with the same hair of various colors, principally white, black and yellow, the weaving being so close that it appeared as though done on a loom.

All these coverlets have around the edge a fringe of some thread twisted, so that they are very fit for tablecloths, or covers, as if they had been made for that purpose. They gave us, also, some little mats, seemingly made of fine palm leaves, wrought in different colors; some hats made of reeds, some coarse and others of better quality, most of them painted, their shape being, as I have said, conical with a narrow brim, and having a string which passing under the chin keeps the hat from being carried away by the wind. We also obtained from them some small wooden platters, well made and ornamented, the figures of men, animals and birds being executed, in relief or by incising, in the wood; also some wooden spoons, carved on the outside and smooth within the bowl, and one rather large spoon made of a horn, though we could not tell from what animal it came.

There were obtained from them two boxes made of pine, each about a vara square, of boards well wrought and instead of being fastened together by nails, they were sewed with thread at all the corners. They have neither hinges nor locks, but the cover comes down like that of a trunk with a fastening like that of a powder chest; and they are rather roughly fashioned within, but outside are well made and smooth, the front being carved with various figures and branches, and inlaid with marine shells in a manner so admirable that we could not discover how the inlay was made. Some of these figures are painted in various colors, chiefly red and yellow. In all the canoes we saw these boxes and some of them were nearly a vara and a half long and of a proportionate width. They use them for guarding their little possessions and as seats when paddling. They gave us, also, some belts very closely woven of threads of wool or hair, and some dried fish of the kind I mentioned yesterday. It is apparent that they have a great liking for articles made of iron for cutting, if they be not small. For beads they did not show a great liking. They accepted biscuit and ate it without the least examination of it.

As I have said, these Indians are well built; their faces are good and rather fair and rosy; their hair is long, and some of them were bearded. All appeared with the body completely covered, some with skins of otter and other animals, others with cloaks woven of wool, or hair which looked like fine wool, and a garment like a cape and covering them to the waist, the rest of the person being clothed in dressed skins or the woven woolen cloths of different colors in handsome patterns. Some of these garments have sleeves; others have not. Most of them wore hats of reeds, such as I have described. The women are clothed in the same manner. They wear [hanging] from the lower lip, which is pierced, a disk painted in colors, which appeared to be of wood, slight and curved, which makes them seem very ugly, and, at a little distance they appear as if the tongue were hanging out of the mouth. Easily, and with only a movement of the lip, they raise it so that it covers the mouth and part of the nose. Those of our people who saw them from a short distance said that a hole was pierced in the lower lip and the disk hung therefrom. We do not know the purpose of this; whether it be done to make themselves ugly, as some think, or for the purpose of ornament. I incline to the latter opinion; for, among the heathen found from San Diego to Monterey, we have noted that, when they go to visit a neighboring village, they paint themselves in such a manner as to make themselves most ugly. We saw that some of the men were painted with red ochre of a fine tint.

Although we invited these Indians to come aboard ship they did not venture to do so, except two of them, who were shown everything and who were astonished at all they saw in the vessel. They entered the cabin and we showed them the image of Our Lady. After looking at it with astonishment, they touched it with the hand and we understood that they were examining it in order to learn whether it were alive. We made presents to them, and told them by signs that we were going to their land in order to obtain water. While these two were on board the frigate two of our sailors went down into the canoes, [after which] the Indians rejoiced greatly, and made a great to-do. They painted them and danced with them with such expressions of content that they could not have done more had they been well known to them, giving it to be understood by the sign of placing the hand on the breast that they loved them dearly.

From this we all inferred that this is a peaceable and very docile people. Those in the canoes invited the two sailors to their land, telling them that, if they wished, they would take them thither in their canoes; but they did not wish to go, telling them that they would go in the vessel with the rest of the people. But this was not possible, on account of the calm which lasted all the afternoon and the currents which bore us away from the land. So the canoes went away, the Indians inviting us to visit their country, and we understood them to say by signs that we should not go farther up the coast because the people there were warlike and slayers of men, this being the customary warning of almost all pagans, in order to make it understood that they are good men and the rest bad. Our attention was drawn to the pleasant faces of both men and women and their long hair well combed and braided, the women particularly keeping the head in good condition, to their using clothing almost like woven stuffs, the fabric being as good and as well made, and to the manufactured articles of wood, palm, reeds and ivory which our people got from them.

It astonished us, also, to find that the women wore rings on their fingers and bracelets of iron and of copper. These things I saw on several women, and the sailors who saw them nearer assured me that there was a woman who had five or six rings of iron and of copper on the fingers of her hands. We saw these metals, though not to any great amount, in their possession, and we noted their appreciation of these metals, especially for large articles and those meant for cutting. The Captain, who spent a great deal of time in China and the Philippines, says that they greatly resemble the Sangleyes of the Philippines. It is certain that the weaving of the fine little mats resemble those that come from China. Although the night is very short, for the sun rises before four o'clock, yet this night was long for us, on account of the desire we had to go ashore. Some of the sailors who bought cloaks passed a bad night, for, having put them on, they found themselves obliged to take to scratching, on account of the bites they suffered from the little animals these pagans breed in their clothing.
. . .

Monday, the 8th [of August, 1774], dawned cloudy, and it threatened to rain. [The] navigating officer, Don Esteban, told us that our position was 49° 05´. Before dinner we made out the land, which appeared to be low and not very distant; though, as it was very cloudy, we could not see it very well. About four in the afternoon we were some four leagues from it. . . . About four o'clock three small canoes came off to us; in one there were four men, in another three, in the third two. [These people were almost certainly Nuu-chah-nulth Indians]. Before reaching us they began to cry out, making gestures and signs that we should go away. Our people made signs to them that they should draw near without fear, and gave them to understand that we were seeking water; but either they did not understand our meaning, or they gave no heed to it, for they went back to the shore. With the light wind that was blowing we drew near to the land, and, at six o'clock, being about a league from it, the lead was cast again; and, good holding ground being found, we came to anchor. The wind died away to a dead calm, and thus we remained, waiting till the morrow to land for the purpose of setting up in the land the standard of the holy cross and taking possession of it in the name of Our Catholic Monarch, whom God guards.

We made out the land very well, it being a [harbor] which has the shape of a C, and which the Captain named San Lorenzo. [The expedition was most likely at Barkley Sound or Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.] The land was low and heavily covered with timber, though of what kind we could not distinguish. This anchorage is but little protected against winds. At a distance of about a league from the very low land of the [Harbor] of San Lorenzo, we saw there was a very high range of mountains, also covered with timber, and behind this range, to the northward, was another still higher, having many peaks covered with snow. It seemed to me that this [harbor] is sheltered from the northwest and southeast winds only, and is open to all others.

Having anchored in this [harbor] at eight o'clock at night, three canoes of larger size, with fifteen men in them, came out, and remained at some distance from the ship, their occupants crying out in a mournful tone. We called out to them and they came nearer; whereupon we asked them by signs whether water was to be had. They did not understand or paid no attention, and went toward the land: but, on the way thither, meeting with two other canoes, all five came on together to about a musket shot's distance from the ship. Although from on board we made many signs to them and cried out to them, they would come no nearer, but remained where they were until about eleven o'clock talking one with another, and from time to time crying out.

These canoes are not as large as those we saw at Point Santa Margarita [the Queen Charlotte Islands], the longest of these not being more than eight varas in length; nor are they of the same build, the bow being larger and hollowed out and the stern bluffer. The paddles used in these canoes attract attention more than those others; they are well made and painted in various colors, and are shaped like a spade ending in a point about a quarter of a vara in length. These canoes are almost all of a single piece, though we saw some which were made of several pieces fastened together with cords.

At dawn on Tuesday, the ninth, the calm continued still. In the northwest the sky was clear; in all other quarters there was a dense fog. At daybreak we set about getting the longboat into the water, in order to go ashore to plant the holy cross. While thus engaged we saw fifteen canoes leaving the land; in a short time they had come near to us, and we saw that there were about a hundred men, and some, though not many, women among them. They were given to understand that they might draw near without fear, and they came, near and began to trade with what they had in their canoes, which consisted only of skins of otters and other animals unknown to us, and some hats made of reeds and painted like those seen at point Santa Margarita, except, we noticed, that in these the conical crown ends in a ball like a little pear, and some cloths woven of a material very like hemp, and with a fringe of the same thread. Our people bought some skins and some cloths and hats in exchange for clothing, knives and shells which the men had picked up on the beach at Monterey and Carmelo, and we noted that these Indians had a great liking for the shells and knives. Among these Indians no cloths woven of wool or hair, like those seen at Santa Margarita, were met with. Some pieces of iron and of copper and of knives were seen in their possession.

We observed that these Indians are as well built as those of Santa Margarita, but they are not as well covered or clothed. These cover themselves with skins of otter and other animals and the woven cloth mentioned, and they have capes made of fiber of the bark of trees. Their hair is long. The women we saw did not have a disk [hanging] from the lip as those of Santa Margarita do, and, therefore, did not appear to be as ugly as those others.

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