Yuquat: Nootka Crisis

John Webber‘s Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, c. 1788

In a race with other European nation states to establish colonies, since the 1490s Spain had claimed sovereignty over the Pacific coast of North and South America. The Spanish developed an empire that by the 16th century included much of South America, Central America and Mexico. In the second half of the 18th century Spain became worried about Russian advances into North America, then a Conference was held at Yuquat,

An illustration of the Spanish establishment at Yuquot at the time of Quadra and Vancouver’s visit in 1792.
Illustration of Chief Maquinna dancing at feast in his bighouse at Tahsis, held in honor of Spanish delegate Quadra and British delegate Vancouver, in 1792.

The arrival of numerous fur traders to Yuquot in the late 1700s also threatened Spain’s claims over the west coast of the Americas. In response, in 1789 the Spanish navy sent an expedition under the command of Esteban Martínez to construct a base and fort at Yuquot, with the authorization of Chief Maquinna. Later that year, Martinez arrested some British trading ships, sparking the “Nootka Crisis” that brought Spain and Britain to the brink of war. The “Nootka Convention” of 1790 initially settled the issue.

A fanciful illustration of a “Spanish insult to the British flag” at Yuquot in 1789 that brought England and Spain to the brink of war.

Two specially appointed commissioners – George Vancouver (Britain) and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (Spain) – came to Yuquot in 1792 to oversee the transfer of claimed rights to Nootka Sound from Spain to Britain. However, the two delegates could not agree on differing interpretations of the treaty, and matters had to be finally settled in Europe. As the Spanish ships departed their outpost at Yuquot for the last time in 1795, they watched Mowachaht people tearing down the Spanish fort and other buildings to re-occupy the site.

Source: The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation


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