Between Documentation and Dispossession

the Language of the Nuu-chah-nulth People in the Journals of James Cook’s Third Voyage – History Workshop Journal

‘Various Articles, at Nootka Sound’. Engraving by James Record after Webber, in A voyage to the Pacific Ocean undertaken, by the command of His Majesty, for making discoveries in the northern hemisphere performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in His Majesty’s ships the Resolution and Discovery; in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780 […] The second edition, London, Printed by H. Hughs for G. Nicol […] and T. Cadell […], 1785, 3 vols, II, plate after p. 306. Copy at Wellcome Collection, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
A bird rattle, a wooden model of bird with stone inside (numbered 1) and three masks or head decoys (numbered 2, 3, 4), one of them (2) a seal’s face, possibly used when hunting.
‘Various Articles, at Nootka Sound’. Engraving by James Record after Webber, in A voyage to the Pacific Ocean undertaken, by the command of His Majesty, for making discoveries in the northern hemisphere performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in His Majesty’s ships the Resolution and Discovery; in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780 […] The second edition, London, Printed by H. Hughs for G. Nicol […] and T. Cadell […], 1785, 3 vols, II, plate after p. 306. Copy at Wellcome Collection, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. A bird rattle, a wooden model of bird with stone inside (numbered 1) and three masks or head decoys (numbered 2, 3, 4), one of them (2) a seal’s face, possibly used when hunting.

Through a case study of James Cook’s third voyage and his contact with the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island in 1778, this article just published on the History Workshop Journal sheds new light on the epistemological dispossession of indigenous peoples that accompanied European expansion in the eighteenth century.

The documentation of the Nuu-chah-nulth language in the official account of the expedition (1784) contributed to the establishment of a monopoly on history, from which indigenous forms of knowledge were excluded. The study of languages contributed to the representation of indigenous peoples as having no history and as being situated in the past of a presumed European ‘modernity’.

History Workshop Journal, Volume 96, Autumn 2023, pp. 46–70, https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dbad013

Find the article on the journal website, or contact me for a free-access link at giannuzzi <at> units.it

It is 1776. European colonial exploration and expansion around the globe is reaching new territories in the Pacific Ocean. James Cook, already made famous by the results of his voyages to New Zealand and Australia, has set off on his third mission in the Royal Navy vessels Resolution and Discovery. The aim is to discover a navigable route across North America – the Northeast Passage – to create a maritime connection between Europe and Asia, as an alternative to the long and costly circumnavigation of Africa. As is well known, it was during this mission that Cook lost his life, in February 1779. Also known is how this mission’s brief stopover along the Pacific coast of present-day Canada and the encounter with the people of Vancouver Island initiated a trade in otter skins that would be the subject of unbridled competition between European powers for some twenty years.

It is from this specific place and time and the sources that described it that this article takes its start.

Acknowledgements

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to John T. Stonham for his help in clarifying a number of entries recorded in Anderson’s vocabulary (‘eenaeehl nas’, ‘neit, or neet’, ‘onulfzthl’, ‘oonook’, ‘ƛama’, the sounds ƛ and ɬ) and Jewitt’s vocabulary (‘sie-yah’): I share with him any merit the remarks on these points in the present essay might have, while the responsibility for any mistake or inaccuracy remains mine alone.

For the stimulating discussions of my work in progress I thank the organisers of and the participants in the 2021 Birkbeck Department of History, Classics, and Archaeology lunchtime seminars series; the Colonial/Postcolonial New Researchers’ Workshop – Imperial and World History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London; and the Canadian Society for the 18th Century Studies & the Midwestern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Translation and appropriation in the long eighteenth century, University of Winnipeg.

 



Cite this blog post
Giulia Iannuzzi (2023, December 23). Between Documentation and Dispossession. Geographies of Time. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/vevk

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