A FATEFUL DAY AT NOOTKA
March 30, 1778
By
Pat Grantt

This poem is based on the true story of the first meeting between Nootkan Chief Maquinna and the British explorer James Cook.

Captain James
Cook

Nootkan Chief
Maquinna


When "Discovery" first was sighted making fast for Nootka Sound
Maquinna met in council with his warriors clustered round.
Scouts he sent to find that creature flying with white wings unfurled
Told wondrous tales of godlike beings housed within a wooden world.
"We believe that transformation of the salmon's what we've seen
They're moving not as men intended, skimming water fast and keen."
As the chief of all his people Maquinna needed proof
In his wisdom he decided on a way to find the truth
"Dress yourself in all your finery, don your masks denoting clan
We will go and stage our rituals on the sea instead of land
In the place of circling fires chanting greetings to drum beats
We will paddle like we're dancing, singing songs of warlike feats
We must chant them well and often so these beings understand
We're a force with which to reckon, be they God or be they man."
So Maquinna and his people lived a day like none before
Changing history in the process opening up a well locked door.
Through that night Cook's men and Nootkas serenaded to and fro
Forming bonds with song and music, building trust that was to grow
On the morrow Nootka people met to ponder what they heard
"We've determined that they're human birthed from women as we were
With the gifts they gave us freely they have shown their good intent
Now we will return some measure of the friendship they have sent
We will go and make fair trading in exchange for all our fur.
Look you well for things of interest that we can in time procure."
Thus the charting of new waters in those days well back in years
Saw first meeting of two cultures pass a test with grace and cheer
Many nations sent their captains to obtain what Cook had found
Those who scoffed at Native customs met their death in Nootka Sound.

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