They will all remember Nootka Sound,
but only a few will return. George Dixon
will abandon his hammer, forge and anvil
to take charge of the trading vessel
Queen Charlotte, while Nathanial Portlock
will command the King George, both ships
dispatched to the North West Coast
to gather sea otter pelts for the lucrative
China market. Nootka will soon become
the main stopover for ships trading
along this coastline. The Spanish will
occupy a fort at Nootka for eight years.
George Vancouver will return as British
commander and diplomat, to negotiate
a withdrawal of the Spanish garrison. He
will map this coastline, circumnavigate
the island that now bears his name, and die
in England, a hounded and unhappy man.
Maquinna, by Spanish artist.
Their names are all around me: Dixon Entrance, Point Roberts, Bligh Island,
the City of Vancouver, Gore Street, Chief Maquinna School. But the names have detached themselves
from their original referents.
In the humdrum of our days they refer to the body of water, or the island, or the city,
or the street, or the school, and not much else. Like the old native spirits of this place, the ghosts have
retreated into the gloom.
They remain confined under dusty covers, locked away in vaults, lost, or shrunk to the size of a postage stamp.