Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver Island’

For some reason, the people of the Pacific Northwest considered rotten fish – salmon in particular – a delicacy, much preferring it to fresh fish. As a result, the odor of putrid fish filled the lodges at Nootka village, including the slaves’ quarters as it did on this occasion.

Toothie wandered over to the white slaves, holding two calabashes of food he’d prepared over the cooking fire. John Jewitt and Thompson accepted the offerings gratefully.

A quick inspection showed it consisted of fish grilled in seal oil. It looked appetizing enough, but the whites guessed the fish Toothie had used came from the small stockpile of putrid salmon the slaves kept in the lodge when supplies permitted.

So hungry were John and Thompson they crammed hand-fulls of the fish into their mouths as soon as it had cooled sufficiently.

It took all their self-control not to gag as they digested the putrid salmon, but they managed to keep it down. If nothing else, they found it was filling and would help them survive another day at least. They weren’t to know it was also very nutritious, and would sustain them until their next meal.

You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story) – available via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story) by [Morcan, Lance, Morcan, James]

Nineteen year-old blacksmith John Jewitt is one of only two survivors after his crewmates clash with the fierce Mowachaht tribe in the Pacific Northwest. A life of slavery awaits John and his fellow survivor, a belligerent American sailmaker, in a village ruled by the iron fist of Maquinna, the all-powerful chief. Desperate to taste freedom again, they make several doomed escape attempts over mountains and sea. Only their value to the tribe and John’s relationship with Maquinna prevents their captors from killing them.

 

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In the following excerpt from our historical adventure INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story)  young English seaman John Jewitt and American sailmaker Jonathan Thompson are pursued by Mowachaht savages as they cross Vancouver Island’s snow-covered mountain ranges in their attempt to reach the Strait of Georgia.

Anxious to catch sight of the escapees before nightfall, Maquina was keen to resume the chase. To his eyes, it was obvious their quarry had descended to the stream at the foot of the hill and then waded upstream, or possibly downstream, so as to leave no tracks. However, Katlahtik suspected otherwise. The tracker motioned to Maquina to study the false tracks more closely.

Mowachaht chief Maquina

Joining Katlahtik, the chief immediately saw what his tracker had noticed: on close inspection it was evident the borders of some of the tracks overlapped, signaling that whoever had made the tracks had stepped into the same tracks again.

Maquina smiled to himself. “The White-Faces have learnt much from us,” he said, looking eastward, “yet they still have much to learn.”

The chief set off after the escapees, his warriors in tow. They moved quickly now.

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John and Thompson fought their way through dense undergrowth as they entered the timberline of the mountain range they’d just crossed. Aware they’d soon run out of daylight, they made haste, anxious to find a place to overnight before darkness finally descended.

Englishman John Jewitt…in later life.

The escapees were unaware they’d entered the territory of the Ehattesaht tribe, a warlike people whose violent history of interaction with whites would not have brought the pair any joy had they been aware of it. Right now, the Ehattesahts were the least of their problems. Hungry and exhausted, they were resigned to spending at least one more night in the mountains before they reached their destination.

“We gotta find shelter,” Thompson gasped, stating the obvious.

John nodded. He was very aware of the dangers a night in the open presented. Even though they’d reached the shelter of trees, there was still snow underfoot and the temperature was close to freezing. Unless they kept moving, he doubted they’d survive a night in the open.

They descended via a forest trail carved out by generations of elk and other animals of the region. Steep in places, it caused them to slip and slide their way down the mountainside.

Thompson tripped and John hurried to help him to his feet. When they looked up, a cougar appeared on the trail barely thirty yards ahead of them.

“Holy shit!” Thompson muttered.

The escapees froze. So, too did the cougar. She stood looking at the pair through huge eyes that seemed to glow almost orange in the semi-dark of the forest.

John’s first thought was for the musket he’d lost in the ravine. Next to him, Thompson was already unshouldering his musket.

“Easy!” John whispered, anxious that his companion made no sudden movement that could prompt the cougar to attack.

Thompson didn’t need any such warning. He moved so slowly it took him an age to unshoulder his musket. As he did, the cougar bared her fangs and growled. It was a long, low growl that was barely audible, but it sent shivers through the pair. Both were convinced the feline was viewing them as dinner.

Still the cougar made no move. Which was just as well as Thompson had yet to prime his musket. A task he could normally perform in a few seconds took him another age – by which time both he and John were sweating profusely despite the cold.

Anxious not to spook the cougar, John resisted the temptation to ask Thompson whether he was loading a musket ball or shot into the musket. He prayed it was the latter as firing pellets required less accuracy than did firing a solitary musket ball.

The cougar suddenly emitted a bone-chilling scream and pounced, her charge so quick Thompson barely had time to raise his musket and pull the trigger.

Strait of Georgia…the escapees’ intended destination.

Thompson’s aim was true, and the musket ball he’d just loaded struck the cougar between the eyes, killing her instantly. She hit the ground hard just ten yards from them, rolling over and over until she stopped almost at their feet.

“Great shot!” John rejoiced, the relief evident in his voice.

Thompson was momentarily speechless. He looked down at his hands and saw they were trembling violently. Then he started laughing.

John joined in the laughter. Their delight was unrestrained. Neither thought it odd. It seemed a natural way of expressing their huge relief, and neither gave any thought to the possibility others may have heard the shot.

Finally, Thompson said, “Well, fuck me! I thought we were gonners.”

As their laughter subsided, John said, “At least we have meat on tonight’s menu.”

Thompson looked down at the cougar and smiled as he pictured himself tucking into a meal of barbecued cougar rump.

 

You have been reading an excerpt from Into the Americas — available exclusively via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

IntoTheAmericas ebook cover

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The following excerpt from our historical adventure INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story)  is set in the slaves’ quarters in the village of the Mowachahts, in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, the night of the massacre of the crew of the brig The Boston. Two survivors of that violent event – young English blacksmith John Jewitt and grizzly American sailmaker Jonathan Thompson – adapt as best they can to their new surroundings.

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

John and Thompson found themselves in the company of forty or more male slaves whose ages ranged from young to middle-aged. The slaves’ physical characteristics were noticeably different to the Mowachahts, signaling they were all from other tribes. Their number included several with Mohawk-type hairstyles, three whose heads were clean-shaven, two whose distinctly Asian features resembled the Inuits who lived much further north, a couple whose foreheads sloped back at a sharp angle, and several stocky individuals who seemed almost as wide as they were tall.

Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island…where it all took place.

If there was one characteristic they shared it was that they were all underweight and in poor physical condition. Their raggedy clothes hung off their spare frames and their faces were gaunt, as if they hadn’t had a good meal in months.

The newcomers weren’t to know their fellow slaves were the last to eat when food rations were in short supply. Even the villagers suffered deprivations over the long winter months, but for the slaves – male and female – it was especially tough as they had to rely on the generosity of their Mowachaht masters for any scraps of leftover food. Often, they had to forage for themselves if they wanted to eat. The pickings were slim in winter, and it was common for at least a few slaves to die of starvation over those cold, dark months.

Among the slaves was one with only one eye. He and the others stared at the whites menacingly.

The threatening reception didn’t go down well with Thompson who immediately bristled. Glaring directly at the one-eyed slave, he said, “What the fuck are you lookin’ at, One-Eye?”

“Thompson!” John hissed just loud enough for his belligerent companion to hear. “You’ll get us killed!”

“Ha!” the older man retorted. “I’ll throttle every last one of these sorry sons o’ bitches if they try anything.”

John’s concern grew as the slaves talked heatedly amongst themselves. They were obviously discussing the new arrivals – in particular the sailmaker who they now stared at malevolently.

The minutes passed and, to John’s relief, nothing happened. The other slaves went back to whatever it was they’d been doing. Some were greedily helping themselves to the contents of a large cooking pot that sizzled over the flames of an open fire. They used clam shells to scoop a porridge-like stew out of the pot into cedar calabashes that resembled crude soup bowls. That done, most dispensed with the shells and used their fingers to transfer the stew into their mouths. So hot was the food, they had to blow on their fingers to cool them between mouthfuls.

Nootka Sound…as it was in the days of the trading ships.

Smoke from the fire curled up through the larger of several holes in the roof. Not all the smoke escaped, so the atmosphere inside was quite smoky, which no doubt explained why some of the slaves appeared to have permanent coughs.

John and Thompson surveyed their new surroundings without enthusiasm. Besides half a dozen wooden apple boxes that served as chairs, there were no furnishings; the lodge’s dirt floor was reduced a muddy quagmire whenever it rained – as was the case right now. The rain had just returned with a vengeance. Where water had dripped down moments earlier, now it cascaded down and gushed through the holes in the roof, adding to everyone’s discomfort.

Most alarming was there weren’t enough bed mats to go round. As a result, half the slaves had to sleep on mats they’d fashioned out of palm fronds and leafy branches. There weren’t enough blankets to go round either, and some of the slaves used palm fronds and other vegetation as substitute blankets.

John and Thompson turned their attention to the large communal cooking pot in the center of the lodge. Those slaves who hadn’t yet eaten were now dipping their hands into a vile-looking stew and shoveling it into their mouths. Hungry though they were, the new arrivals resisted the urge to join their inhospitable companions. The pair sat down just inside the entrance, away from the others.

Thompson looked at John. “You alright, Jewitt?”

John nodded unconvincingly.

Thompson wasn’t fooled. He knew his young companion was going through his own private hell. The Philadelphian looked over at the other slaves. They were all staring at the two whites, and openly talking about them in their native tongue.

“The White-Faces smell like pigs,” One-Eye said to a bald slave.

The bald slave nodded. “They look like pigs, too.”

The others laughed aloud.

Thompson sneered at them. “Filthy animals. I’ll flatten these whale-fuckers if I get ‘alf a chance.” He spat in One-Eye’s direction.

“We can’t afford to make enemies of them!” John said with some urgency. “They’re slaves, too.”

Thompson bristled. “I told you, Jewitt. I’m no man’s slave.”

John wanted to make the older man see sense, but he didn’t have the energy. “I need to sleep,” he mumbled.

“Me too.”

Nootka Sound…in more recent times.

The two men crawled to the driest section of floor they could find close by then lay down and prepared to sleep. Thompson didn’t trust the other slaves, so he tried to sleep with one eye open, but that didn’t work. All the while, water dripped down onto them, keeping them both awake.

After an hour of tossing and turning, John turned to the dark shape lying next to him. “You awake?”

“Of course I’m bloody awake.”

His back turned to the others, John unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the two pistols he’d recovered from The Boston’s armory. The shiny, silver weapons were just visible to Thompson in the dim, flickering light of the fading fire.

The sailmaker’s eyes widened at the site of the pistols. “Where’d ya get those?” he whispered.

“From the armory.”

Thompson glanced around to ensure they weren’t being observed. He needn’t have bothered. The others were fast asleep. “You got ammunition for them?” he asked.

Embarrassed, John shook his head.

“What use are pistols without ammo?” an incredulous Thompson asked.

“You just never know.”

Thompson looked askance at John. “Christ, I’m gonna go insane here.” He turned his back on his companion, annoyed by the young man’s naivety.

Undeterred, John wrapped the pistols in a handkerchief and surreptitiously deposited them behind a loose board in the near wall.

 

You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). The book is available exclusively on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

 

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In our true-life adventure novel Into the Americas, we relate how young Englishman John Jewitt and his fellow hostage Jonathan Thompson accompany their Mowachaht captors on a raid into the territory of the fierce Haachaht tribe of the Northwest Pacific.

Nootka Sound…Home to the proud Mowachaht tribe of Vancouver Island.

In the following excerpt from our novel, the Mowachaht raiders are ambushed by the Haachahts as they paddle up a river:

Callicum, the Haachaht chief, and three hundred of his warriors waited in ambush in the trees on the far bank. Most wore the distinctive and frightening wolf’s brow-mask, and all carried bows, spears, tomahawks and other traditional weapons. There wasn’t a musket in sight. However, what they lacked in fire-power they made up for in manpower and ingenuity.

On the near bank, directly opposite Callicum and his men, another hundred Haachahts waited. They, too, wore brow-masks and were similarly armed. Within their ranks, two strong, well-built bowmen stood some twenty yards apart. Each held a bow almost as long as himself. Their arrows resembled slim spears and were close to six foot long. A line trailed from each of their shafts. The lines were tied to the front edge of a huge, reinforced fishing net, which lay spread out on the ground between the two bowmen.

Both groups of Haachahts were visible to each other, but the dense undergrowth and foliage still hid them from the raiders even though their canoes were almost level with them.

At a signal from Callicum, the two bowmen opposite lay down on their backs, their knees bent and their moccasined feet raised skyward. After positioning their feet against the inside of their bows, they each loaded a long arrow and prepared to loose it toward the opposite bank. Even though they each used both hands to draw the mighty bows, the tremendous effort required caused their muscular arms to tremble. Their eyes were focused on a headman who stood midway between them and whose eyes, in turn, were focused on Callicum on the opposite bank.

The Haachaht chief now had his tomahawk raised high above his head. As the lead canoe drew level with his position, Callicum brought his tomahawk down.

At a nod from the headman opposite, the two bowmen gratefully released their long arrows in synch. Nearby, two more bowmen prepared to send a second net toward their enemies.

In the lead canoe, John and his fellow paddlers looked up as the huge net sailed above them, trailing behind the two spear-like arrows. The arrows buried themselves in the ground on the opposite bank and the net slowly floated down. It narrowly missed the lead canoe, settling over the one following and entangling its occupants.

Terrifying Haachaht war cries shattered the silence, and arrows and spears rained down on the Mowachahts. Most of those entangled in the net were quickly struck down as they struggled to disentangle themselves. Several scrambled overboard and tried to swim downstream, but they were quickly picked off by well-placed arrows. The canoe’s captain, Quasoot, was among the casualties.

The Mowachahts’ first thought was to use their muskets to fight off their enemies. They instinctively discarded their paddles and frantically began priming their muskets. As a result, the canoes bumped into each other and began drifting aimlessly in the current, their surprised occupants sitting targets.

Callicum had anticipated this and urged his bowmen to pick the disorganized Mowachahts off before they could wreak havoc with their muskets.

Maquina saw the danger immediately and exhorted his warriors to forget about their muskets for the moment and to paddle to the left bank where Callicum and his warriors happened to be. They responded straight away, retrieving their paddles and paddling furiously.

At the same time, another net sailed over the river and settled on a second canoe – this one captained by Toowin. Fortunately for Toowin and his fellow paddlers, one of the two arrows used had been misdirected, and so the net didn’t completely envelope the craft. Even so, the disruption it caused resulted in at least half the canoe’s occupants being killed or wounded. Toowin himself suffered a flesh wound when an arrow creased his chest.

As the remaining canoes closed with the far bank, they were met by a hailstorm of spears and arrows. Callicum’s warriors were trying to finish their enemies off before they could reach the shore. Mowachaht casualties mounted. Some of those who had been killed floated off downstream with arrows, and in one case a spear, protruding from them. Blood stained the water around them.

For one long moment, Maquina’s eyes locked with Callicum’s. The Mowachaht chief stood upright in the prow of his canoe. Ignoring the arrows that flew around him, he cursed his opposite. “Callicum, you treacherous dog!” he shouted. “I will personally cut out your heart!”

Callicum shouted something unintelligible back at his opposite.

Maquina was first to disembark. With no apparent concern for his own safety, he ran directly at Callicum, musket in one hand and club in the other. He used the latter weapon to effortlessly swat aside two Haachahts who made the mistake of not getting out of his way.

John and Thompson were among the next to disembark. As they scrambled up the bank, they fired their muskets at near point-blank range at the nearest Haachahts. Their hands were a blur as they primed their muskets and fired again. Identifying their enemy was made easy by the wolf brow-masks most of the Haachahts wore.

In anticipation of close-quarter fighting, Maquina had wisely ordered his fellow raiders to use shot, or pellets, as opposed to musket balls. John and Thompson were thankful for that as they loosed shot after shot at their enemies: each shot felled two or more Haachahts, so tightly were they congregated and so effective were the deadly pellets directed their way.

The whites were quickly joined by their fellow raiders who brought their own muskets into play. More Haachahts were struck down.

Chaos reigned. War cries, musket shots, curses, agonized screams, shouted orders and insults mingled in one deafening cacophony of sound; smoke from the constant discharge of muskets hung in the air, its acrid smell instantly recognizable; spears, arrows, tomahawks, axes and knives flew through the air as warriors grappled with their enemies in the woods, along the riverbank and even in the river; and all the while bodies piled up along the bank and in the shallows, and still more floated downriver.

You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). The book is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

 

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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.

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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/

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

★★★★★ “Wow…never a dull moment.” –Tony Parsons –Amazon reviewer

 

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INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story), the latest novel penned by New Zealand father-and-son writing team Lance and James Morcan, has entered Amazon’s bestseller lists, climbing into the top 10 Kindle ebooks in the crowded Action and Adventure category.

IntoTheAmericas ebook cover

Readers resonate with this top 10 book.

A gritty, real-life adventure based on one of history’s greatest survival stories, Into the Americas  was inspired by the diary entries of young English blacksmith John Jewitt during his time aboard the brigantine The Boston and also during his sojourn at Nootka Sound, on North America’s western seaboard, from 1802 to 1805.

It’s a tale of two vastly different cultures – Indigenous North American and European civilization – colliding head on. It is also a Romeo and Juliet story set in the wilderness.

To see what reviewers are saying about this top rating book go to: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

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In the following excerpt from our new adventure novel Into the Americas, we describe trading between the Mowachaht tribe and unscrupulous white traders in Nootka Sound, on Vancouver Island, in the early 1800’s.

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

In the skies above North America’s west coast, amongst the clouds, a bald eagle glided in lazy circles. With her magnificent white head and tail feathers, and her six-foot wingspan, she was the queen of her domain as she made use of the thermals that rose from the unseen terrain below.

The clouds parted to reveal a village – one of many populated by the indigenous people of the remote Northwest Pacific region. Nootka village was bordered by rugged, forest-covered hills which rose up out of the sea. Comprised of twenty or so large, wooden lodges, it was home to the Mowachaht tribe, one of the twenty-five Nuu-chah-nulth indigenous groups that occupied the region’s craggy coastline. A two-masted schooner lay at anchor offshore, safe for the moment in an inlet with the unlikely name of Friendly Cove.

Distance was no problem for the eagle whose sharp eyesight could distinguish any object from another, even if those objects were little bigger than a pinhead. Right now, her eyes were focused on a Chinook salmon swimming between the schooner and shore. The eagle flattened her wings and dove head first, extending her wings moments before she struck the water. Talons extended and now in a shallow dive, the eagle grasped the salmon and, with a few mighty beats of her wings, rose sluggishly skyward with her catch.

The eagle’s labored flight took her directly over the village. If any of the villagers had been waiting for her, with bow or musket primed, they’d have shot her down easily for she was as yet barely higher than the colorful totem poles that lined the shore. Fortunately for her, eagles were sacred to these people and so they ruled the skies with impunity.

A trade was going down with a dozen crewmen from the schooner. Unkempt and ill disciplined, the crewmen were typical of the freebooters who visited these shores in increasing numbers. They carried with them an assortment of weapons and were clearly no strangers to violence.

Armed Mowachaht warriors, ever-mindful of bad experiences they’d had with other European traders, kept a wary eye on the visitors. Most were armed with muskets, some carried blunderbusses and a few bore traditional weapons, including clubs, spears and tomahawks.

The traders had come to exchange muskets for sea-otter pelts. Much sought-after, the beautiful pelts fetched a princely sum in the civilized world – especially in London and in Macau, China. Consequently, Nootka village and the sound named after it was an increasingly popular port of call for traders intent on filling their ships’ holds with the bounty of the New World.

Most of Nootka’s fifteen hundred residents were present to observe the trade, which was being conducted on a sandy beach in front of the village. Trading, especially with visiting Europeans, was a highlight of their short, hard lives. More so after the long winter months – as was the case on this pleasant spring day.

Among the Mowachahts, the common or untitled people wore sealskin and coarse cedar bark clothing, which afforded protection from the constant rain in these parts. The chiefs and men and women of high ranking wore animal skins and colorful capes or, in rare cases, the pelt of the sea-otter.

Headmen invariably wore the striking black sea otter pelt. It extended to the knees and was fastened around the waist by a wide band of colorful, woven cedar bark. The warriors wore square-cut, yellow mantles with holes cut for the arms – similar to those worn by the commoners except theirs were dyed red and were more basic.

Absent from the trading activities were the Mowachahts’ slaves. Acquired in raids on neighboring tribes, the slaves were readily identifiable as such as they collected firewood and performed other menial tasks in and around the village. Though they spoke the same Wakashan language as their Mowachaht masters, their appearance was quite different: each bore the physical characteristics of his or her tribe. Some were lighter skinned, others darker; some were tall and slender, others short and stocky; some male slaves were bald or wore their hair short, others wore their hair in long ringlets; most wore raggedy sealskin clothing while some were near-naked. Their number included almost as many females as males – the former more often than not serving as sex slaves as well as manual workers.

Above the beach, the Mowachahts’ lodges extended to the tree line. They were a sprawling collection of wooden dwellings, the remnants of a Spanish trading outpost vacated some years earlier. Smoke from cooking fires curled up into the sky from strategically placed openings in the lodges’ roofs.

The totem poles – some even taller than the surrounding fir trees – towered over the lodges.

On the beach, there was an air of tension as the schooner’s master, Captain Alvin Walsh, an abrasive New Yorker with a well deserved reputation for dishonest trades, bargained with a group of headmen. Foremost among the latter was Maquina, chief of the Mowachahts. Tall, bronze and muscular, the middle-aged Maquina cut an impressive figure in his ceremonial cloak. Feathers protruded from his long, black hair, which he wore as a bun on top of his head. Like all the headmen, white down covered his head and shoulders, conveying the impression of falling snow.

Captain Walsh’s steely gaze was fixed on the bundles of pelts that lay at his feet while Maquina’s hawk-like eyes were fixed on a dozen new muskets stacked end-to-end in an open casket. The casket lay on top of five identical unopened caskets.

Hard-nosed bartering had begun soon after the traders had stepped ashore earlier in the day and, to both parties, it seemed a successful trade was no closer. Tempers were becoming frayed.

Maquina pointed at the caskets and, in broken English, said, “Maquina say…five pelts…one musket.”

Walsh shook his head. “One musket…ten pelts.” He appeared ready to depart, a shrewd strategy he’d fine-tuned years earlier when trading watered-down whisky to the East Coast tribes.

The chief quickly nodded to his opposite, indicating they had a deal. Walsh gestured to his men who immediately began scooping up bundles of pelts.

Maquina intervened. “Try musket first,” he said.

Walsh cursed under his breath as he motioned to his men to hold off for the moment. He then selected a musket from the open casket and handed it to Maquina. The shrewd chief ignored the offering and selected another musket. He expertly primed it and fired it into the air. The shot echoed throughout Nootka Sound. Still suspicious, Maquina broke open another casket. He tested a second musket with the same result. Satisfied, he made the faintest of hand gestures to his warriors who immediately uplifted the caskets and carried them away.

A relieved Walsh motioned to his men to resume gathering up the pelts. Under Maquina’s penetrating gaze, the captain appeared tense and he exhorted his men to hurry.

There was good reason for Maquina’s suspicion. The Mowachahts – like all members of the wider Nuu-chah-nulth community – had been short-changed, and worse, by European traders. As the number of visiting trading vessels increased, so too had the number of unsavory incidents. The indiscriminate shooting of villagers by drunk or disgruntled traders was becoming almost commonplace and the rape and mistreatment of women even more so.

And so it was with some malevolence that Maquina and his people observed these latest traders as they ferried their trade items back to the waiting ship.

You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). To read more go to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

 

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