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John Jewitt's Diary
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Maquinna
John Jewitt, the young English blacksmith aboard the trading ship the Boston was struck by the Nuu'chah'nulth people whom he met in 1803. He was particularly struck with the look of one their chiefs, Maquinna, who had extended welcome to James Cook twenty-five years earlier.
Habitations at Nootka Sound, British Library Picture Library
Habitations at Nootka Sound, British Library Picture Library

Maquinna was the chief of the Moachat group of the Nuu'chah'nulth and Jewitt describes him in his journal as "a man of dignified aspect, about six feet tall in height and extremely straight and well proportioned: his features were in general good, and his face was rendered remarkable by a large Roman nose, a very uncommon form of feature among these people; his complexion was of a dark copper hue, though his face, legs, and arms were on this occasion, so covered with red paint, that their natural colour could scarcely be perceived; his eyebrows were painted black in two broad stripes like a new moon, and his long black hair, which shone with oil, was fastened... over with white down, which gave him a most curious and extraordinary appearance.
Actor Michael Mahonen portraying John Jewitt, blacksmith aboard "The Boston," in Canada: A People's History.
Actor Michael Mahonen portraying John Jewitt, blacksmith aboard "The Boston," in Canada: A People's History.

"He was dressed in a large mantle or cloak of the black sea-otter skin, which reached to his knees, and was fastened around his middle by a broad belt of the cloth of the country, wrought or painted with figures of several colours; this dress was by no means unbecoming, but, on the contrary, had an air of savage magnificence."

Maquinna initiated the trade for his own village and acted as a wholesaler for other tribes, taking their goods to the Europeans and making impressive profits. European goods meant status here, and Maquinna had grown rich trading sea otter pelts to white people for metal goods.

He was a shrewd bargainer and became adept at playing the Spanish against the English. His influence stemmed, in part, from the wealth he attained and subsequently redistributed in potlatches.
Callicum and Macquinna, chiefs of Nootka Sound, at Friendly Cove.
Callicum and Macquinna, chiefs of Nootka Sound, at Friendly Cove.

Through trading, Maquinna built up his base of power, both within his own tribe and among others on the coast. He now reigned over a community that had been changed by contact.

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Cabot, cod and the colonists from Canadian Geographic, March 1999

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