Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sometimes, A Story Is All In The Telling, I Think

Pacheenaht patriarch Charles Queesto Jones was 111 years old when he told me a story that had been handed down to him from the time of his great-grandfather. It was about a terrible mistake some of the Pacheenahts’ neighbours made after they’d attacked, burned, and sunk an American ship that had put in to trade for sea-otter fur.
Jones’s memory was failing, but the lesson of the story remained perfectly clear to him.

The story was almost certainly an account of the 1803 attack on the American ship Boston near Yuquot. Chief Maquinna, who ordered the assault, spared the life of one of the ship’s crew, John Jewitt, the ship’s armourer. Jewitt lived as Maquinna’s favoured slave until he was ransomed to another American ship in 1805. The event and its consequences became known to the outside world because of Jewitt’s enormously popular memoir, first published in 1815.

In Chief Jones’s telling, the captive was a blacksmith, and the mistake was sparing the man, because of the misfortune that later befell the Nuu-chah-nulth tribes of Vancouver Island’s west coast. Had the crewman been killed with all the rest, the world would never have come to know about what had happened to the ship and its crew.

The lesson of the story, in Chief Jones’s words, was this: “We should have killed all of them.”

That's from my Georgia Straight column this week. I eventually get around to explaining how all this relates to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ugly, divisive, and inflammatory rhetoric in the matter of aboriginal fisheries.


Blogger Dirk Buchholz said...

Harpers comments regarding aboriginal fishing,is fairly common within the fishing industry.Having lived in Prince Rupert for years,I have heard the same nonsense from the mouths of many white fishermen(some friends even).
It seems such views are coming quite widespread,particularly since the fish stocks have been at a near crisis level.Race has always been a factor on the West Coast,sometimes breaking out into the open,but always simmering just beneath the surface(though some progress has been made).Race continue to divides Natives and whites involved in the fishing industry.
But to have the Prime Minister uttering such devisive tripe,in 2006 illustrates the huge divide that still exists between First Nations and the rest of the country.
Obviously intelligents is not one of the requirements for one to hold high office.
This is the guy First Nations have to deal with,in hopes of arriving at some kind of consenses.

1:12 AM  
Blogger keefer said...

A very applicable piece not just from the fishing perspective, but for the world at large.
"We should have killed all of them" can be used in so many contexts, one hardly knows where to start.
I haven't read Jewitt's accounts of his captivity yet, but I'm sure it would be worthwhile. Probably not quite as worthwhile as Chief Jones to say.

12:33 AM  

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