"Though my comrade and myself fared as well, and even better than we could have expected among these people, considering their customs and mode of living, yet our fears lest no ship would come to our release, and that we should never more behold a Christian county, were to us a source of constant pain. Our principal consolation in this gloomy state, was to go on Sundays, whenever the weather would permit, to the borders of a fresh water pond, about a mile from the village, where after bathing, and putting on clean clothes, we would seat ourselves under the shade of a beautiful pine, while I read some chapters in the Bible, and the prayers appointed by our Church for the day, ending our devotions with a fervent prayer to the Almighty that he would deign still to watch over and preserve our lives, rescue us from the hands of the savages, and permit us once more to behold a Christian land. In this manner were the greater part of our Sundays passed at Nootka; and I felt grateful to heaven, that amidst our other sufferings, we were at least allowed the pleasure of offering up our devotions unmolested, for Maquinna, on my explaining to him as well as was in my power the reason of our thus retiring at this time, far from objecting, readily consented to it. The pond above mentioned was small... the water being very clear, though not of great depth, and bordered by a beautiful forest... a most delightful retreat, which was rendered still more attractive by a great number of birds that frequented it, partcularly the humming bird. Thither we used to go to wash our clothes, and felt secure from any intrusion from the natives, as they rarely visted it except for the purpose of cleansing themselves of their paint."
Yuquot - Jewitt Lake - National Register of Historic Places - British Columbia, Canada
This pond was actually larger than John realized and in fact, turns out to be more of a lake. Today it is known alternatively as Aa-aak-quaksius Lake or Jewitt Lake. I do not know what Aa-aak-quaksius means, but in my research I found out that Maquinna's Yuquot village where John was held captive, was designated in 1923 as one of Canada's National Historic Places. Its importance is described as follows:
- it is the ancestral home of the Mowachaht and the centre of their social, political and economic world (Mowachaht is the more specific and proper name of Maquinna's people);
- continuously occupied for over 4,300 years, the village became the capital for all 17 tribes of the Nootka Sound region (think of it, their ancestors had to have been among the first migrants to cross over the Bering Sea);
- it is the area where Nuu-chah-nulth whaling originated and developed and the site of the Whaler’s Washing House, the most significant monument associated with Nuu-chah-nulth whaling; (again Nuu-chah-nulth is the more proper term as opposed to Nootka, the white man's misinterpretation of the actual Indian name for the peoples of this region).
What was the Whaler's Washing House? It turns out this was an important sacred shrine situated on the lake on a heavily wooded islet. Also known as Prayer House, it was a place of traditional purification rituals to prepare for whaling. The shrine was first described as a Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) ceremonial site by first-hand accounts of early western explorers in 1785. It contained a collection of 88 carved human figures, four carved whale figures, and sixteen human skulls. The actual origin of the shrine is unclear.
Whaler's Shrine - Photograph by George Hunt 1904 - American Museum of Natural History
So contrary to John's belief that the Indians only occasionally visted this place to 'wash off their paint' it turns out to have had as great if not more of a spiritual significance for the Indians in their own way, as it did for John and Thompson. It shows that for all that John witnessed of the Indian culture, there were plenty of aspects that he wasn't and couldn't have been aware of. It is interesting that unbeknownst to each other and expressed in very different ways, the same place was sacred to both Indian and white man.
What is sad is that in the early 1900's the shrine was removed from its location and purchased under somewhat questionable circumstances for the American Museum of Natural History, where a part of it is actually on display today. That is a whole other fascinating story for another time. Suffice it to say, the descendants of Maquinna and the other indigenous peoples of the area are working to have the shrine returned to its original location at Jewitt Lake.
Links to Related Sites
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Rod Collins - Lincolnshire Thro' History, Life, Lens and Words
The Old Palace Lincoln - Elegant Bed and Breakfast
National Portrait Gallery - London
College of Arms
The Jewett Family of America
History and Geneaology of the Jewitts of America
Marvinas Bay Lodge
First Peoples of Canada