First portraits of north west coastal people
Man and Woman of Nootka Sound, 1778
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Portrait of Man & Woman of Nootka Sound 1778
John Webber
Orig. copper-plate engraving - Size - 9.5" x 15"
Found - Whitby, UK
Pub. George William Anderson's edition of Cook's Voyages, pub. by Alexander Hogg, London 1784-86
Captain Cook on Vancouver Island

On March 30, 1778, Captain James Cook below sailed his ship Resolution, for the first time, into Nootka Sound, on the south western coast of Vancouver Island.

Aboard was John Webber who drew Cook's maps and sketches of the topography, and of the inhabitants whom they encountered.

Right is the ultra rare, original engraving that was struck from the copperplate and published in London in 1784.

Besides being some 220 years old as an engraving, they are also the first portraits ever made of Canada's First People on the West Coast.

Upon seeing Cook's ship, the Nootka Chief Maquinna told his people "to go out and try to understand what these people wanted and what they are after."

On that day Cook wrote in his log: "A great many canoes filled with the Natives were about the ships all day, and a trade commenced betwixt us and them, which was carried on with the Strictest honisty on boath sides. Their articles were the Skins of various animals, such as Bears, Wolfs, Foxes, Dear, Rackoons, Polecats, Martins and in particular the Sea Beaver, the same as is found on the coast of Kamtchatka."

Captain Cook went on to the South Pacific, where he was killed when his presence roiled up the natives in Hawaii.

The images of Vancouver Island's aboriginal inhabitants were published in the 1780s. They are featured below.

Between 1784 and 1786, George William Anderson produced: A New, authentic and complete collection of voyages round the world, undertaken and performed by royal authority. Containing an authentic, entertaining, full, and complete history of Capt. Cook's first, second, third and last voyages. London, 1784-1786.

Anderson's collected voyages were originally published weekly in 80 six-penny numbers.

The intention of publishing the work serially was due to the "many thousands of Persons who would wish to peruse the Discoveries . . . and view the astonishing fine Copper-Plates, [who] have hitherto been excluded from gratifying their eager curiosity.

These installments would allow "every Person, whatever may be his Circumstances," to read about the voyages "of which such vast Sums of the Public Money have been expended."

In subsequent editions the portraits originally published, above, were enhanced, as shown below.

These pictures show the huge houses the Nootka made out of cedar trees that grew to enormous heights in the rainy lushness of the Pacific Coast.

The logs allowed Pacific Coastal people to build houses with tremendous ceiling spans, providing the largest interior spaces of any First Nations people in North America.

Because the surrounding waters were so teeming in fish and wildlife, the Nootka could stay put, and build huge houses.

Other First Nations people, in the continental interior, may have been close to big trees, but couldn't use them the same way, because they had to pursue a nomadic lifestyle, always having to follow the movement of game with the changing seasons.

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007