Framed Art Card - Farewell (12" x 9")
In the summer of 1792, Captain George Vancouver entered the territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw. Here he encountered people of a strong culture, greeting him in their great canoes. He came to their land in search of a Northwest Passage to service the trade of the British Empire. While he did not find that passage, he was said to have discovered a number of areas of the present British Columbia coast, including the site of his namesake city, Vancouver, BC.
During his short tenure on the coast, he gave names to a host of places, often naming them after members of his crew—Whidbey Island, Puget Sound, Mt. Baker, Cape Mudge, Broughton Archipelago and Menzies Bay to name a few. He marked these names on maps and afterwards dined with his crew on board the HMS Discovery. What he may or may not have considered is that all of these places already had names—names that described attributes of the place or referred to sacred and profane historical moments in time; names that had existed for countless centuries.
Like most early explorers and men of duty to their country, Vancouver had to return home. I envision that as he passed by Kwakwaka’wakw territory for the last time, he looked out between the ratlines of his sloop and witnessed our moon. In that moment of truth, he may have realized that he would never return to this ancient land—his presence was but a blink in the timeline of the coast. After bidding farewell, he returned to England, quickly becoming embroiled in controversy and passed away only 3 years later in obscurity. Back on the coast, though, the flourish of his pen and those of other visitors like him was all it took to ensure that most of the ancient names of the region would forever be relegated only to the memories of its original inhabitants. After all, what else could you call Cape Mudge? Tsakwaluten?