The newly minted dollar coin features images of Captain James Cook and Chief Maquinna. (Royal Canadian Mint photo)
It has been 240 years since a pair of wooden British ships found their way to the present day Nootka Sound. One of the ships was called Resolution and sailed under the command of Captain James Cook.
It was March 29, 1778 during his search for a northwest passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean that the sailors came across Chief Maquinna and his Mowachaht people at their summer home of Yuquot.
Cook was looking for a sheltered bay to make repairs on his vessels when he sailed into Nootka Sound. He was greeted by the Mowachaht people who paddled out from their magnificent beach. It is considered the first recorded contact between Nuu-chah-nulth and Europeans.
His impression of Chief Maquinna and his people were so favorable that Cook and his crew stayed for a month and bestowed the name Friendly Cove on Yuquot.
The Royal Canadian Mint is marking the occasion with the release of a commemorative coin set which features an artist’s rendering of scenes from that day.
The Tahsis Heritage Society is celebrating the release of the coin set with a free community event on Sunday, June 24. Tahsis is about 40 kilometres from Yuquot as the canoe paddles. Historically, Tahsis is the winter home of the Mowachaht. Yathlua, Chief Mike Maquinna, a descendant of the Chief Maquinna that met Captain Cook, says that he hopes that more families from his nation make a home there someday soon so that people will remember the history.
The Tahsis Heritage Society invited the Mowachaht/Muchalaht Ha’wiih to take part in the event and they’ve accepted the invitation, despite some misgivings about whether or not the occasion should be celebrated, given the long and difficult history with the newcomers.
“It is nice to be invited and I will go,” said Yathlua, adding, “to commemorate the explorers coming into our waters is another thing.” He went on to say that since that day history has proven that First Nations have been traumatized.
“I am going and if I’m asked to say a few words, I will; in fact, history needs to be told on behalf of Mowachaht/Muchalaht so that there will be a better understanding of the history from our perspective,” said Yathlua.
Mowachaht/Muchalaht Chief Jerome Jack also planned to attend the event – if nothing else came up on his schedule. “There’s really not much to celebrate,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa. “It’s been nothing but a struggle for our people since that day,” he added.
Jack made his comments at a recent Nuu-chah-nulth fisheries meeting. He noted that they were there, still fighting for court-won fishing rights. Citing the 1995 Triple J court case, involving his late father, Chief Jerry Jack, Jerome said his father was arrested for fishing in his ha-hulthi. He had been fishing for his son’s wedding.
“We’re still fighting in courts for what’s rightfully ours to this day,” he said.
The commemoration event took place Sunday, June 24 from 1p.m. to 4p.m. in Tahsis, BC, at the museum.
“As part of Nootka Sound we are celebrating the release of a commemorative coin by the Canadian Mint. The coin marks the 240th anniversary of Chief Maquinna greeting Captain Cook right here in Nootka Sound,” said Shawna Gagne of the Tahsis Heritage Society.