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Archive image of Young Yuquot residents having some lunch

Yuquot from the air
Yuquot beach camp site
Yuquot carving
Yuquot carving
Yuquot Historical Guardian
Friendly Cove Church

Yuquot (Friendly Cove)

Western Vancouver Island

In 1778, Yuquot became the first point in British Columbia to be set foot on by Europeans. It was Captain James Cook’s third and last voyage from England, as he would ultimately be killed in Hawaii, and Cook and the HMS Resolution made landfall on Nootka Island in March. Friendly Cove was historically the summer home for local First Nations groups and it was on this site that the first colony in BC, Fort San Miguel (Spanish), was established. Recognized as a National Historic Site in Canada, Yuquot is now home to a manned lighthouse, a historic Catholic church, and in the summer, a settlement of Muchalaht/Mowachaht First Nations who conduct tours and maintain the site for visitors.



Settlement

Coordinates: 49°35’39”N 126°37’14”W


Yuquot has traditionally been the summer home of the Muchalaht/Mowachaht First Nations due to its clement weather and rich resources. When Captain Cook landed there in 1778 he met with Maquinna, the chief at the time. Though Cook documented the landing site and traded with the locals, he and his crew did not establish a settlement there. This was left to Captain Martinez of the Spanish Navy, who in 1789 settled in Yuquot, and built Fort San Miguel, the first European building on the Pacific coast of Canada.


Middle History


While Fort San Miguel was occupied by the Spanish for only three months initially, the fort was rebuilt twice, and was permanently abandoned by 1795. The area was hotly contested during the 1700s, with both Britain and Spain claiming exclusive trading rights to the region. The Nootka Convention of 1794 resolved any issues, and avoided a war between Britain and Spain. Spain did not relinquish their claim to the area, but relaxed their claim to trading rights, allowing Britain to become the larger trading partner on the west coast. Ultimately, the area became unimportant for Spain, and by the early 1800s, all that remained of the Spanish in the region were islands and inlets named after the Spanish explorers. In 1803, when a British trading vessel was anchored in Yuquot, it was attacked by the First Nations in the area. In one of the only instances of white slavery in BC, the two surviving crew members of the ship HMS Boston were captured, and one of the survivors, John Jewitt, wrote a book about his experiences, The White Slaves of Maquinna. The next hundred years were marked by further European trading and exploration missions in the area, and though tensions between First Nations groups and the explorers eased, the Europeans were responsible for introducing a number of diseases, including influenza and smallpox, that decimated the First Nations population in the area to one tenth its pre-colonization level by 1900.

As European colonization became more aggressive in the early 20th century, the First Nations were increasingly marginalized and persecuted in the Yuquot area. In 1906, the ceremonial Whalers Washing House was stolen by Franz Boas, a European anthropologist, and was sent to the American Museum of Natural History, where it remains pending recovery by the Yuquot area First Nations. In the 1950s, a Catholic Church was built in Yuquot, for the purposes of “educating” the First Nations in European religion and tradition. In 1966, the Federal Government of Canada ordered the First Nations removed from their territory and placed on a reserve near Gold River, an area of less than four hectares for the 300 people remaining in the whole area. While the Government of Canada gave Yuquot National Historic Site status in 1923 due to its importance in European colonization, it did not receive federal recognition as an important First Nations community until 1997.


Present Day


Census figures today put the population of the community of Yuquot at 25 people, compared to a historical summer population of over 1,500 First Peoples. The site is still used by First Nations, albeit not to the historical level, and the manned lighthouse and church in Yuquot are popular west coast attractions. The site is maintained year round, and in the summer, guided tours of the area are led by the First Nations in Yuquot. The battle to have the whaler’s shrine repatriated to the community continues, meanwhile, the 92 carvings, 16 skulls, and the shrine itself remain in storage at the Natural History Museum in New York.

 

Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.