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Canadian history, art and the Royal Family's relationship to the country

John Meares (c. 1756-1809)

Voyages made in the years 1788 and 1789 from China to the North-West coast of America 1790

RCIN 1124465

The people of the Pacific Northwest Coast were first encountered by the British during the third voyage of Captain James Cook. Cook visited Nootka Sound (Mowichaht), the ancestral home of two groups of Nuu-Chah-Nulth peoples (now united as the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations), in 1778.

Cook’s reports that the people were friendly and that the seas would provide an abundant source of sea otter fur encouraged traders to take advantage of the new opportunity. The activities of British fur traders and Spanish colonial forces in the region over the next decade almost brought the two countries to war in the 1790s. This was only averted through a series of conventions agreed at Nootka Sound, mediated by the Mowachaht chief Maquinna (‘possessor of stones’). Maquinna hosted the delegates from Britain and Spain, welcoming them with a series of ceremonies similar to the potlatch. He managed to get both parties to relinquish claims on the land, allowing his people to re-establish settlements that they had been forced to abandon.

The events were of great interest in Britain and both George III and the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) acquired accounts for their libraries.