The courage of the First Nations people of North America is highlighted in our new release historical adventure novel Into the Americas. In particular, we focus on the hardy Mowachahts, of Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, and their powerful chief Maquina.
Nootka village, the traditional home of the Mowachaht tribe…as it once was.
The following excerpt from the novel describes a whale hunt, which was an annual event for the Mowachahts and other Nuu-chah-nulth peoples of the Pacific Northwest. This passage describes the Mowachahts’ first whale hunt of the season. (The year is 1803; the setting is the chilly waters off Nootka Sound):
“Big fish!” the cry went up from a warrior in the stern of the lead canoe.
Maquina looked directly ahead. A mile distant, water spouts revealed the presence of a pod of humpbacks. The chief stood up and, pointing at the whales, rubbed his stomach theatrically. “Tonight, we fill our bellies until we burst!” he declared.
Maquina’s men paddled with more urgency now. The times they and their families had gone hungry over the long winter months were still fresh in the minds of each. A successful kill would provide sufficient food to feed them and, indeed, all the villagers for many weeks to come.
The paddlers were breathing hard by the time they reached their prey. A few final strokes and Maquina’s canoe was alongside the huge creatures of the deep. The other two canoes arrived moments later.
All powerful Mowachaht chief Maquina.
Maquina had already established there were seven whales in the pod, including a calf that swam leisurely beside his mother. Their sonar-like calls echoed hauntingly in the morning air.
At a signal from the chief, the three canoes suddenly darted in amongst the whales. Still the creatures showed no concern over the new arrivals in their midst.
Standing up in the prow of his canoe, Maquina drove his harpoon into the mother whale, which happened to be the nearest, then two warriors threw spears into her back. Lines tied to the spears were attached to sealskin floats.
The spiked tip of Maquina’s harpoon had lodged firmly in the whale’s head, prompting the mighty mammal to thrash her tail about. Maquina and his men had to hold on for dear life as the whale’s gyrations threatened to overturn their canoe. Blood appeared in the water all around them, attracting the tell-tale fins of sharks.
Only now did the whale’s calf realize something was wrong. The calf darted left and right in the water, but wouldn’t leave his mother’s side.
As expected, the wounded whale dived deep, taking the floats with her. The rope connecting the harpoon to the canoe’s bowsprit rapidly uncoiled and once again everyone aboard the canoe held on tight. The calf followed his mother, responding to the cries of distress that came from her.
When the whale took up the last of the rope’s slack, Maquina’s canoe was abruptly jerked forward at a steep downwards angle as the whale continued her dive.
“She is ours!” Maquina cried triumphantly.
The rope suddenly slackened. Mystified, Maquina started pulling it in. He eventually retrieved the harpoon and saw its iron spike was missing. Furious, he threw his broken harpoon into the bottom of the canoe.
Those in the other canoes fared no better. Peshwar’s experience was identical to Maquina’s, and Toowin’s harpoon snapped as soon as it struck the intended target. Three strikes and three broken harpoons. It was an all too common result.
Maquina cursed their luck as he motioned to his men to return home. They paddled in silence. Behind them, the wounded whale and her calf surfaced and quickly swam away to rejoin the others in their pod.
You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). To read more go to: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/
★★★★★ “Wow…never a dull moment.” –Tony Parsons –Amazon reviewer