Extending the route: paddling too!

LDSCN2612This is exciting! Our vision for the Secret Coast 2018 was a hiking expedition, linking the three land-routes: Tatchu Peninsula, Nootka Island and Hesquiaht Peninsula. But what was bugging me was that, although this covers where most of the Spanish/Nuu-chah-nulth historical interactions occurred (roughly 1774-1790s), it doesn’t  cover some of the very interesting interactions the American traders had with the Nuu-chah-nulth tribes – especially Tla-o-qui-aht. (They are the people farther south along the coast, including the Tofino area).

LDSCN2638Well, I had a brilliant idea: since that part of the route is completely unwalkable (too many deep inlets to cross, much of it islands anyway), why don’t we paddle it? I worked as a sea kayak guide out of Tofino years ago… I am not sure why it took me so long to come up with this idea… but now that I’ve finally got it, it is indeed brilliant!

So now we will hike, as planned, as far as Boat Basin (Cougar Annie’s Garden). But then we will jump into our sea kayaks, and continue on to Tofino. This will take us to many more significant spots, including Adventure Cove on Meares Island, where the American ship Columbia wintered in 1791-92 and where the first ship ever to be made on this coast was constructed. And it will also get us out to where the incident of the Tonquin took place: an altercation between an American trading ship and Tla-o-qui-aht, that resulted in most of the ship’s crew being massacred. But Tla-o-qui-aht did not know about gun powder, and two remaining crew members managed to blow up the ship, killing many of the Natives. (As Tla-o-qui-aht elder Joe Martin tells it, this was the world’s first suicide bomber).

LDSCN9456A submerged anchor was found near Tofino in 2003, which almost certainly came from the Tonquin. While to the Americans, the disappearance of the Tonquin remained a mystery for nearly two centuries, Tla-o-qui-aht have always known where the ship sank: that knowledge was preserved in their families’ oral histories. Not only was the anchor found right where Tla-o-qui-aht claim the ship sank, it was encrusted with turquoise trading beads that would have been on deck (not stowed away, which they would have been if the ship was under sail when it sank) and which are of the right time period to be from the Tonquin. Here’s a photo of Joe Martin with some of the beads.

I am really excited about adding this kayak section on to our route – it makes it much more naturally complete, to include the tales of the Columbia and the Tonquin. It also closes the historical investigation part of this project much more sensibly: after the loss of the Tonquin in 1811, European and American explorers and traders avoided this stretch of coast for the next half century. So it completes our journey really well, and it also really defines the historical period we are exploring as 1774-1811.

Sometimes life gets in the way

We had planned to do the Secret Coast expedition in June of 2018… but sometimes life gets in the way.

LsqIMG_2109A bunch of stuff has come up – ranging from a knee injury on my end, and an old dog that we just don’t feel good about leaving alone for so long (she’s been a really good dog… we can’t NOT be around if something happens!) and a few other personal things, it’s just not going to happen this year.

But  we are absolutely not giving up on the expedition. We are committed to it on every level – from the physical expedition, to also the historical and cultural exploration – and still super-excited about it. So we will relaunch for summer 2019 – most likely even adding more to it: more scope, more history, more exploration, possibly even extending the route to include a kayaking section!

So stay tuned, we are delayed but we are not set back!

Through Nuu-chah-nulth territory

Nuu-chah-nulth-aht are a sea-going people. Archeological dates show that the ancestors of the Nuu-chah-nulth were living here on the coast at least 5,000 years ago. However, they have probably been here much longer than that.

LsDSC_0055Changes in sea level over time make it difficult to know exactly when the Nuu-chah-nulth ancestors first arrived, because rising seas in the past have obliterated the older deposits. They most likely arrived here well over 13,000 years ago, either by canoes or some other watercraft, along the coast from Siberia and beyond.

The word Nuu-chah-nulth means “the people along the mountains and the sea.” However, this is not the word that they originally used for themselves. Formerly, they were many small tribes, each with a defined territory, united by language, culture and family relations – each tribe with its own name. As a result of colonization, and the need to deal with the relatively new Canadian government as a single unit, it served the people to unite with a common name for all, and the name Nuu-chah-nulth was chosen.

The number of original Nuu-chah-nulth tribes decreased substantially as a result of population loss, primarily due to introduced diseases: many of the smaller tribes were forced to amalgamate. Today there are 14 main Nuu-chah-nulth tribes (or 17 including the closely related Ditidaht, Pacheedaht and Makah to the south).

Map of Nuu-chah-nulth territory (from Nuu-chah-nulth seafood website)

The Secret Coast expedition will have us go through the territory of three Nuu-chah-nulth nations: Nuchatlaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht and Hesquiaht. We will pass through several significant historic sites relating to some of the earliest Native/European contacts, too, specifically:

  • Homais Cove on the Hesquiaht Peninsula, site of the very first European contact on this part of the coast, where the 82′ Spanish frigate Santiago, under the command of Juán Pérez, made contact with the native Hesquiaht in 1774.
  • Yuquot (Friendly Cove), a Mowachaht whaling village for thousands of years, also where Captain Cook landed four years after the arrival of Pérez, later the site of a Spanish fort, and even later the place where the English armourer John Jewitt was held captive by Chief Maquinna from 1803 to 1805.

Nuu-chah-nulth culture has been significantly impacted by European contact over the centuries: for example, through the introduced diseases, the loss of access to traditional territories, and the on-going impacts of residential schools. (Jackie has previously written about some of these topics,  such as Indian Residential Schools and aboriginal fishing rights).

However, in recent years, indigenous movements are strengthening, and there is a cultural rennaissance taking place. There is presently a strong push towards reconciliation (whatever that ultimately means) from all sides: from indigenous people, from the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and from many regional governing bodies and communities.

Base of Wecome Figure at Friendly Cove, carved by Sanford Williams

Our website is up and live!

4.0.1Welcome to the new website for The Secret Coast 2018 – a 24-day expedition along the outer coast of northern Vancouver Island. We aim to be the first people to hike the three coastal routes: the Tatchu Peninsula, Nootka Island, and the Hesquiaht Peninsula, as a single non-stop journey.

Please explore our website to learn more – Jacqueline has been working hard (even as she is en route to another expedition, in a similar landscape but at the other end of the globe, the Pacific shores of southernmost Patagonia) to post the information about this journey:

  • where we are going
  • who we are
  • what our intentions are

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, or leave a comment below. (Please note, though, that due to Jacqueline’s travel in remote regions of Patagonia through February, it may take us a few weeks to respond – be patient!). In the meantime, please explore the site – there is a ton of information here!

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