The last of the Spanish

GhostshipBy 1801, the Spanish were all but gone from the Northwest Coast. After nearly starting a war with England over the fur trade centered at Nootka (Vancouver Island), an accord was reached in 1792 and the Spanish were required to return some seized ships and they lost control of Nootka area trading.

They still occupied a part of Nootka until 1795 and they had their fort, which they had erected after leveling with cannon some Native houses that were in the way. But they knew their stranglehold on Nootka was finished, and in 1792 they sent a ship across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Cape Flattery, sailed into what is now Neah Bay and built a fort less than two miles from the Makah village of Neeah. Although trading prospects with these cloud ship people were enticing, the Makah, like many coastal tribes, didn’t trust the Spanish. True to form, the Spanish soon committed bad acts, and, fearing retaliation, compounded their crimes by directing cannon fire at two native canoes peacefully headed to one of their clam beaches near the Spanish fort. Reports vary, but several teenagers and, at least, one elderly person in the canoes were killed. This unprovoked act caused the Makah to prepare for a real retaliation, but they didn’t get the chance.

In 1793 the Spanish hastily left, taking what they could load on their ship, never to return. It is believed they left someone on Waddah Island, supposedly the man responsible for raping a Makah woman. They also left some pigs that had been put there to forage for themselves. The Makah did not believe the man the Spanish left was the guilty party, and they were probably right, but he was all they had and was soon killed. It would be another 50 years before the Makah trusted anyone on a cloud ship.

Posted in Pacific NW Notes

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