Book launch: The Adventures of John Jewitt: The true story that inspired Into the Americas (Illustrated)

Posted: April 11, 2018 in The Adventures of John Jewitt
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Sterling Gate Books has launched The Adventures of John Jewitt, the 19th Century public domain book that was the inspiration for Lance and James Morcan’s bestselling historical adventure novel Into the Americas.

 

THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN JEWITT: The true story that inspired Into the Americas (Illustrated) by [Jewitt, John Rodgers]

A book by Jewitt, about Jewitt.

 

Written by Jewitt himself, his story is a tale of two vastly different cultures – indigenous North American and European civilization – colliding head on; his adventures in the Pacific Northwest must surely rank as one of history’s greatest wilderness survival stories.

Sketch - Young John Jewitt

A young John Jewitt… Note the  forehead scar left by a Mowachaht warrior’s tomahawk. 

When the nineteen-year-old blacksmith boarded the brigantine The Boston in his home port of Hull, England, in 1802, he couldn’t have envisaged what awaited him upon arrival in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, off the west coast of the country now known as Canada. Jewitt was one of only two survivors when fierce Mowachaht warriors slaughtered twenty-five crew members aboard the brig. He and his fellow survivor had to endure more than two years as slaves of the First Nations people of Nootka.

Sketch - The Boston arrives at Nootka

The Boston arrives at Nootka Sound.

According to Jewitt’s diary entries, the Mowachahts’ slaughter of his crewmates was quite premeditated. Unfortunately, his description of the events leading up to the massacre doesn’t tell the full story, which is that the Mowachahts – like most or all the tribes of the Pacific Northwest – had put up with many, many years of abuse by successive Spanish, English and American traders. History shows that the abuse ranged from unfair trades to the frequent rape of indigenous women and all too often to murder.

There’s no denying the Mowachahts were savage. Jewitt himself writes of their savagery. However, he also refers to the kindness and generosity of his captors and their love of family, and we note the examples he gives far outweigh references to their savagery.

Thanks to Jewitt’s fondness for the written word and his diligence in maintaining his diary entries throughout his captivity, we have been left with an intriguing insight into his life, and into the lives of First Nations people. His account is made all the more extraordinary by virtue of the fact that such interaction between whites and the tribes of the Pacific Northwest was virtually unheard of and certainly never before (and seldom since) written about in such detail.

In his self-effacing way, a modest Jewitt explains how his work ethic, his friendly nature and his willingness to accept the native peoples as his equal endeared him to many of his captors. He even married a local maiden who bore him a son – though he makes little mention of this in his writings other than admitting his wife was very pleasing on the eye. (Georgian era attitudes perhaps dissuaded him from revealing more).

Such was his eye for detail, John Jewitt leaves the reader with a clear understanding of the Mowachahts’ customs, language, daily work habits, hygiene, trading, hunting, whaling and fishing techniques, diet and food preparation, potlatches, housing (they lived in lodges left by Spanish visitors), tree-felling and canoe-making, toolmaking and weapons, worship, feuds and settlement of intertribal disputes. How Jewitt eventually engineered his freedom makes for entertaining reading.

Sketch - Mowachaht war canoe

Mowachaht warriors paddle to war.

All this, and more, will become evident as you read The Adventures of John Jewitt (The true story that inspired Into the Americas). The book also has 10 original illustrations.

 

The Adventures of John Jewitt: The true story that inspired Into the Americas (Illustrated) is available now via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C36WL37

 

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