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Tom Koppel


This tape is part of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society Collection and comprises an address given to its members, entitled ‘The Kanakas’.
Mr. Koppel talks about the history of the Hawaiians on the Pacific Northwest Coast, beginning in 1777 and centering on the mid-nineteenth century. He speaks specifically about the Kanakas on the Gulf Islands, (Russell Island and Salt Spring Island) and the American San Juan Islands, 1860 - 1920s.

Accession Number Interviewer Address to the Historical Society
Date March 14, 1999 Location Central Hall
Media Audio CD
ID 46-1 Topic


Summer 2021


Riley Donovan

46-1TomKoppelKanakas - Created August 2003
Thu, 8/12 10:08AM • 1:03:17
Description: At the time of this recording, Tom Koppel had not yet written his book about the Kanakas on Salt Spring Island: “Kanakas”. In this Salt Spring Historical Society speech, he provides a general overview about where his research has taken him at that point. Some of it is still in an unvarnished general stage, and audience members correct him on a few points about dates and names. Overall, however, this speech provides a good overview of the different Hawaiian families and individuals that came to Salt Spring and the smaller surrounding islands, including the Naukanas, Haumeas, Rolands, Maria Mahoi, the Douglasses, and more. It also provides a few details about the culture and lifestyle of the Gulf Island Kanakas, and some general history of Hawaiian settlers in British Columbia.

Kanakas, Hawaiians, Tom Koppel, William Naukana, Haumea, Maria Mahoi, Rolands, whaling, Russel Island, Isabella point, Coal Island, gill netting, Salt Spring Island, Hudson’s Bay Company, fruit growing, George Fisher, Abel Douglas

Audience member, Tom Koppel

Tom Koppel 00:01
So hello, I should start by explaining how I got interested in this perhaps obscure subject of the Kanakas. I was a winter caretaker one year on Russell Island. And I noticed that the present residents of Russel Island are here, I'm glad to say. And I learned that Russell Island was one of the islands that was, was first owned and settled by a Kanaka family. I think the next thing that intrigued me was Dick Toynbee's book with some of the photographs and I began to read a little bit more about island history and realized that there had been very little written on this subject. And in fact, other than some family stories, especially from the Roland family, which had found its way into Bee Hamilton's book, there was virtually nothing on, on the subject. And eventually, I began writing for magazines. And I did research for an article on this topic, and I'm sorry to say it has not appeared. The editor, this was for Western Living magazine, the editor liked it and paid me and everything. But sometimes these things fall through the cracks, they changed editors. And so, so far, it has not appeared. And it looks like it might not. But in the course of doing that research, I found that there was so much information, that I couldn't even cover it, I couldn't come close to doing justice to it in one magazine article. So now I'm in the position where I have applied for a grant to try to get some money to write a book, covering it in greater detail. And I'm still waiting to hear from the Secretary of State's office (??) this is in connection with multiculturalism, there are grants for books of history on ethnic groups in Canada. And I had some good indicators, the people who read my proposal liked it. And so, I'm just waiting to hear and I'm hoping that I will be able to set aside six months or so which I think is what's required. And go back through some of this material and do a full book on the subject. And I have a publisher lined up and I know where most of the material is. But today, let me just say that if I, if I'm not clear on some points, it's because I did some of this research already over a year ago. And some of it I just touched on it, identified where the material is. I've gone through census data. For example, the census of 1881 was very, very useful. It gives quite a good description of who's who on the islands, including names of children and the ages of some of the people. The other useful sources are the BC directories, which list people who are employed in a particular area such as farming or fishing, who wanted to be listed. Usually, these are only men, and usually they're just heads of households. But there's quite a few of the Kanakas were listed there. And let's see, there was one other source. Well, anyway, I should go back right to the beginning, I guess, how, how did the Kanakas? Well, first of all, the derivation of Kanaka. I've seen two conflicting derivations, one simply says that it comes from the word Kono, which is apparently the wind for man, and it simply means man or person. Another source says that it means the king's men or men representing the king of Hawaii. So, I'm not sure, that's the kind of thing that I would look into in greater detail. The, the first Kanakas to come here, well I should go back further. When Captain Cook reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. And he was impressed right away, it's in his first records or memos that he was impressed by the Kanaka's swimming or boating ability. Soon, other European ships began stopping at the Hawaiian Islands. And if you look at a map and you look at the winds and currents, you realize it, it's really quite hard to get to this coast without stopping in Hawaii. It's not impossible, but for the types of ships in the 18th century, most of them, it made sense to stop in Hawaii, it was really almost the only place to get water and perhaps firewood or food. At that time the population of Hawaii was about half a million. And it was really a major kingdom. Very well organized. And the ships found that they could hire labour in Hawaii.

Tom Koppel 05:26
And that's really how the Kanakas ended up coming here. But the very first one to come here was a woman. I don't know if you remember Beth Hill's little talk on Francis Barclay, but the captain Barclay of the Imperial Eagle, his wife, Francis Barclay took a Kanaka woman on board as a sort of personal servant. The Hawaiians were very interested in the outside world. I mean, suddenly, these Europeans started showing up in ships, and telling them stories about the rest of the world and the Hawaiians were very interested. And so, they really were quite anxious to go on, on foreign ships. And so, she was the first one, to come to this area to Nootka Sound. And, unfortunately, she didn't get home, she never made it home alive. She was she went with the ship, after Nootka, she went to China. And then she wanted to come home, she was transferred to another boat, and she fell ill, and she was buried at sea; she died on board the ship. But in the few years after that, that was 1787. In the next few years, though, other Kanakas began joining ships, some of them went and became missionaries. They went to China, they went to the United States, they went to Boston. Some of them went to England, and some of them returned to the islands as missionaries. But it wasn't until 1811, so a fair time passed before the first actual hiring of Kanakas to work on this post began. And that was started by John Jacob Astor, who was a German American tycoon who decided to set up a fur trading post on the Columbia River, which had already been discovered and explored. But he sent a ship the Tonkin around the Horn equipped to set up a trading post, this would be the first, first trading post on this coast. And the when the ship came through Hawaii, again, they were really impressed with the, the officers were incredibly impressed by the Kanakas swimming and diving and boating skills. A piece of hardware apparently fell overboard into deep water and some Kanakas just dove down and got it. And they realized what a, what a great asset this would be on this coast, to have people who were familiar with boats and good at swimming and diving. They went to the king and asked whether or not they could hire some of his people. And he agreed. And so, the first group was sent off to what was complete hinterland, the Columbia River District, which is a gigantic area to think of it. It's all of Oregon and Washington and really up into British Columbia. This one ship took 24 Kanakas and sailed through the Columbia River, and 12 of them were designated to work on shore, and another 12 were to stay on the ship. And there was one extra man, his name was Naukana. He became, because of the problem of Hawaiian names, which plagues my research, to no end, you know, the spellings are just very, varied, you can never find the same name spelled twice the same way. This Naukana, and the pronunciation of the name, this Naukana came to be called John Cox. Apparently, he, yes l, very similar it's obvious why (laughter). He resembled somebody else who was named John Cox, they started calling him John Cox. Anyway, he was the King's representative, to look after the welfare of these 24 Kanakas who were sent off into the unknown. He was in a sense in charge of them. And he was of aristocratic descent, he was somehow related to the king, again there's a question of the exact (unintelligible) details of his relationship, but he was, he was a person of high status, and he was sent off with this group. They got to the Columbia River. They put their stores ashore and the people who were gonna to start the trading posts, which they did, they built the trading post. It's called Astoria, which is down near the mouth of the Columbia River, in what is now Oregon. And then the Tonkin with its crew, including these 12 Kanaka seamen, sailed for this coast, they went north.

Tom Koppel 10:16
And unfortunately, they hit Clayoquot sound, I think a year or so after some other ship had caused some havoc, and the Indians were just waiting for a chance to get revenge, and they were all massacred. So, unfortunately, the first group of Kanakas didn't do too well, at least the ones who had stayed on the ship. And in general, this Astoria, didn't work out very well as a venture. But the interesting part is that this John Cox, and he's important, because we'll come back to him later, he's actually a dis-, an ancestor, a direct ancestor of some of the Salt Spring. At least I believe he is. He went up the Colombia with a trading party, to survey the area and to try to find sources of skins and furs. And they ran into a, now these are a group of Americans, he was working for the Americans, and they ran into a group from the rival British Northwest company. And at this time, this area was being claimed by not only the United States and Britain, but also by Russia and still Spain. So, there were different groups trying to start the fur trade in this area. He somehow hit it off with this group from the Northwest Company, and they did a trade. One of the men from their group joined the Americans and he joined the Northwest Company. And they ended up going up the Columbia, across portaging, this is mainly by canoe, portaging from river to river or across lake systems. Presumably, details (unintelligible), presumably joining with Indian groups to help them across some of the areas. He went all the way to the Great Lakes. And when they got there, they found out that the war of 1812 had broken out in their absence. And that now Britain and the United States were at war. And here's this fella had just joined the British side. So they went to Montreal, which was the center of the Northwest, the headquarters of the Northwest Company. And there it was decided to outfit an expedition to seize Astoria. So here you're more than half a continent away, and they're making plans to seize Astoria. And they have this fellow John Cox with them who knew the whole story of what was what and where everything was and, he was very valuable. So, they took him to England with them to outfit a ship. And this is true, this is what they did. They, they outfitted the ship. And they sailed all the way back around the world to Astoria. And when they got there, it had already been handed over to the Northwest Company. Astoria, Astor who was smart, or his representative, they had sold out, they were actually facing an overland siege. An overland group had gotten there already. And they knew they were on their way, and they made a deal. And they, they sold their port and trading post to the Northwest Company. And the Northwest Company a few years later was absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company. So, by the 1820s, this entire huge area of the Columbia district became the fiefdom of the Hudson's Bay Company. Now this, meanwhile, Cox went back to Hawaii, his job was done. And there's a problem with dates. But I believe that the Naukana who was the sort of elder statesman of the Salt Spring Island Kanakas, I'll have to go through this again, is either the son of this earlier Naukana, or perhaps a nephew, some sort of relative. If you look at the official dates that the Roland family believes that he was born, it's impossible for him to be the son of this John Cox, but it's only off by about a year. So, I don't know. It's possible that he's just a close relative. Okay, so the, the Hudson's Bay Company began to open up this area for trading and they needed more and more Kanakas and in fact, quite a large number of signed on. This is one of the things that I've tried to find out: how many. It's very hard to tell. It's certainly in the high hundreds.

Tom Koppel 15:06
At any one time. One estimate is that by 1825 300 had left Hawaii to work in North America. By in 1850, at the single date of 1850, there were over 1000 Kanakas working for the Russian American company. This was a separate trading company in Alaska, and along the coast of Alaska mainly, and the Bering Sea. So, they alone had hired 1000 Kanakas, they're kind of outside the area that we're talking about. But you can see that a lot of Kanakas went off to work. In 1850, California, was had just become a state and it, it held its first census, and there were over 300 Kanakas just in California, which is not really part of the Hudson's Bay Area. And a Hawaiian temperance journal, estimated that there were 3 to 400 Kanakas working for the Hudson's Bay Company in the Columbia district. So that gives you some idea of the scope. And we don't know how many went back. A master's thesis from the University of Hawaii estimates that about 300 ended up in British Columbia, coming to British Columbia. Now, the reason they came here in large numbers was that the Hudson's Bay Company, eventually, withdrew North after 1846. The boundary had been determined that the future boundary was going to be at the 49th parallel, plus of course Vancouver Island dipping down a little bit below that. But until then, the Hudson's Bay Company was the power in the whole Columbia district. After 1846, they were still there, but the pressure was on, Americans were pouring in to colonize the area. And the Hudson's Bay Company, and all of their employees were seen as an alien and pro-British element. And so, the pressure was on them. The Kanakas in particular were discriminated against, they were considered to be black people, they were not allowed to have the vote. They were not allowed to become actual citizens of Oregon, for example, when the territory was Oregon, and it began to have representation in the US Congress. So, the handwriting was on the wall. They, they had established a major village, actually, it was called Kanaka village, at the largest trading post in the Columbia District, which is where Vancouver, Washington is today. At first it was Astoria, and then the Hudson's Bay Company moved further up the river and to the other side of the river, and they established Fort Vancouver, which was a very large trading post, and it had a sawmill there were 50 to 100 Kanakas employed at the trading post about 20 more at the sawmill. They even had their own church, and they had their own minister whom the British sent over from Hawaii. His name was Kanaka William, and he later withdrew North. And he, I found his name in Victoria, in the land preemption list, which is another handy source of information. In fact, that's the other one I was thinking about that is that when you, the early preemptions of land are a great source of information because the dates are exact and usually there's some information about the people. Anyway, so be the minister from this first Kanaka church in what is now the state of Washington ended up living out his days in Victoria. And the old John Cox makes a reappearance by the way.

Tom Koppel 19:17
He had gone back to Hawaii, and he then got into some trouble with the king. He was considered useful again because he spoke English and he was sent on a, I should say he got into trouble with royalty because, he accompanied the king and queen of Hawaii on a trip to, to England. And they died of disease in England. And so, when he got back, he was considered to have failed in his efforts. He was somehow on the bad list. And he ended up going back to North America and went back to work now for the Hudson's Bay Company, and he lived out his days as a swine herd at the Kanaka village on the Columbia River. Now, the other Naukana, who is perhaps his son, perhaps his nephew, got into Hudson's Bay Company service in 1835, at least according to the memories of his grandsons Jack and Paul Roland, whom some of you may know I mean, I remember.

Audience member 20:29

Tom Koppel 20:30
Yeah, yeah.

Audience member 20:31
(unintelligible) There's the Lumleys in there.

Tom Koppel 20:33
Yeah. yeah. I remember Jack Roland, (unintelligible) was working on the ferries. I guess he died about 10 years, something like that. Maybe not even that long. Yeah. I should say by the way, I asked Kathy Roland to come today. She had to work but she had done a little. She had written a bit of a paper for Expo; she had been asked at the time of Expo to write a little family history. And that was very useful to me. And she couldn't make it today. But I've used some of her material. And the Jack and Paul Roland, fortunately, are recorded on in the oral history project and in the provincial archives, so anybody can go in there and hear some of their reminiscences. Unfortunately, it's a bit short. And it's only about an hour all together, and you listen to this, and you wish that they'd got them to sit down and say listen name everybody who lived along Isabella Point, and what were all their children's names, and try to remember everything, and a lot of this information is lost. Another sad thing is that they had a Kanaka Bible that recorded all the marriages and all the births of the Kanaka community and Salt Spring and that was destroyed in a fire in 1943 at the Rolands. So, yeah, the house burned down, and so, yeah, it's hard to piece together some of this material and a lot of is based on memories of the Rolands, what their grandfather told them or what the grandfather told their parents and what was filtered down to them. So, some of it is a little bit shaky. Before I get on to the Salt Spring Kanakas, specifically I should say that Victoria played an important role. Obviously, Victoria was developed before Salt Spring Island was. As of 1858, when the Gold Rush started, Victoria suddenly became a boomtown. And there were already Kanakas living at the Fort. There were also Kanakas at other forts, and in fact, long before this. At the same time that there was the main central fort and trading post on the Columbia River. The Hudson's Bay Company had forts all the way up and down this coast as far as the panhandle of Alaska that was Fort Stakine (?). Fort Simpson near Prince Rupert, Fort Langley on the Fraser, there were a couple of others. And at most of them, there were Kanakas. For example, at Langley. there were at least 4 Kanaka families, that when the Hudson's Bay Company, essentially faded out as the power in the area, these people stayed there and settled down. So, there are there are Kanakas in the Langley area. The Victoria, Fort Victoria, though became the new headquarters, when they were forced out of the Oregon territory. Victoria became the centre. And it was not just a stockade, they had to have farms. And this is one of the main ways that the Kanakas were employed is as farm labourers. So, there were farms in Esquimalt and the James Bay Area. And one of the most relevant ones for this story is that there was a farm on San Juan Island, which at that time was still claimed by Britain. And so, when, you Naukana... Okay, I have to back up. The Naukana, who was either the son or perhaps nephew of the original Old John Cox. He spent 10 years working for the Hudson's Bay Company in the Columbia district and also up on this coast apparently, there's lots of stories that his family tells, that the descendants tell, about working on survey ships, going up rivers and near-catastrophes in the snow and with horse and with dogsleds, I mean, apparently, he was a voyageur, and he put in something like 10 years with them And that would bring us to either 18-, that would be about 1845 or 1850, depending on the dates, which one is really right.

Tom Koppel 25:20
And then apparently, he went back to Hawaii and found that a lot had changed in 10 years. Now the Rolands say that the family, his own family had gotten divided, between on religious grounds between Catholics and Protestants. And this was happening in Hawaii. There. Another report is that the problem was that their lands had become taken over had been taken over and made into a plantation, a sugar plantation. There's, it's also important that there was disease, smallpox had swept through Hawaii sometime during this period. So, there's lots of possible reasons why someone might find that things have changed too much. Anyway, apparently, he went back. And he had gone back to Hawaii, he didn't like it. He organized a group of 17 or 18 of his relatives, to come back to the Northwest. And to work for the Hudson Bay Company.

Tom Koppel 26:21
They arrived, and they were assigned to San Juan Island. This is according to the Roland's memories. And this, this is confirmed very nicely I think by, in the censuses, some of the children from this group were listed as having been born on San Juan Island. So, I consider that to be pretty, pretty good evidence. And also, I found an article based on old timers' memories from the San Juan Islands of the farm where the Kanakas worked. And it said that they were something like 20 to 25 Kanakas. So that fits fairly well with the numbers we're talking about. So, you have this one fairly sizable group being sent to San Juan Island, to work on the farm. And also not Incidentally, to bolster the British presence on the island. Because this was the period of the Pig War, the conflict between Britain and the United States over ownership of the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands, and sort of this group of Kanakas, apparently, were on San Juan Island throughout that whole period, which was 1859 to 1872, so a 13-year period. In 1872, the dispute was settled by the German Kaiser, it was arbitrated in favour of Britain (He must mean the United States). And so, the again, here you have this group that were loyal to Britain, and had worked with the Hudson's Bay Company, again, they were seen as an alien element. When given the choice, they move back across the line to what is now what was had become British Columbia, and part of Canada, British territory.

Tom Koppel 28:02
Now, there were a lot of Kanakas that that stayed in Washington and Oregon. And in fact, some of the Salt Spring Kanakas have relatives in Oregon. And Jackie Hembrook, some of you may know her, she said that she when she was a child, they went to some meeting or sort of family gatherings down in Oregon, where there's still quite a few Kanakas, so they did not all come up North. But in Oregon and Washington, from what I've read, it seems as though they dispersed even more than here, that there was no single place where they, they formed a true community. And I think what's interesting about Salt Spring is, and the Gulf Islands is it seems to be the only place where the Kanakas actually settled in a large enough single group that they really did form a community. And when I say community, I'm thinking mainly in terms of actually intermarriage. That they didn't just disperse, there were enough of them that they could form their own group. And they could have also perhaps kept their language going. But according to the Rolands, they, the, the elders said to the children don't bother with the language, the way they said it was they were so loyal to the people who had brought them here that they figured they have to assimilate at least at that level and learn English. Another interesting thing is that, as far as I can tell, none of them were literate, at least not in English. I don't think in any other language. So, we have no written records at all, from the very early period of the Kanakas on Salt Spring.

Tom Koppel 29:41
Okay, so you have the, this group of Kanakas coming now into British Columbia into the Gulf islands, but not just into the Gulf islands, some of them first went to Victoria and preempted land there. For example, a Daniel Credisson (?). Now, it's hard to know I mean, this name is not an obvious Kanaka name. But in the Toynbee book, the there's a picture of him, he certainly looks like a Kanaka. It's said that he is a Kanaka and what are we to think, I have to assume he was. He settled in Victoria in 1861. The first to settle on Salt Spring was in 1868. Now this is before this main group. This is somebody named Kay Auhu (?); these names are very hard to deal with. It was also written Chauee (?") and he settled in Fulford. The source there listed him as a Kanaka. This is interesting too. When you have the census takers running around, they didn't always give a nationality for people, but for some reason, they felt free to say Kanaka. So, it's handy, it's helpful, on the other hand, it's not always clear that the people who are not called Kanakas are not because I found some discrepancies. There were some people who clearly were Kanakas who were not listed as Kankas. So, it's very hard to trace these names, and the names change. The next one to preempt on Salt Spring was William Anowan (?). Now, he then became, ah made a mistake! The second one to move to Salt Spring was this Daniel Credisson (?). But he, he settled in the Central area, which means anywhere from here to Ganges or to Vesuvius in those days, he's listed as being in Central

Tom Koppel 31:50
That was 1871. Then a Kanaka settled on Coal Island, which is just off of Swartz Bay, named Kama Kamai. And later on, another Kamai settled on that island and there's still some Kamais in Victoria, I noticed in the phone books, I thought, if I write this book, I might as well get in touch with all the Kamais and see what their story is. But they were on Coal Island. Then finally they began to come, this original group with Naukana, began to settle. In 1875, John Palau, settled on Portland Island, and a William Manson settled on Portland Island. Now. Again, the sources are really tricky. One suggests that William Manson is actually Naukana. I don't believe this because 12 years later, someone named Naukana preempted land on Portland Island. So, I doubt that there's a confusion there. Later on, there is a Henry Munden. So, Manson and Munde, it's possible that that's one family. The Rolands believe that, that Naukan, and so William Naukana and John Palua, both settled on Portland at the same time, I think it's quite possible. It could be that they just didn't preempt the land at that time. It could be that they didn't go through the formalities. There were also squatters. When Ruckle said that when the Ruckle family first moved to Beaver Point, that there was a Kanaka squatter living there, who stayed there for quite a while and yet there's no there's no listing of him in the land preemption records that I could find.

Audience member 33:45
(Unintelligible contribution)

Tom Koppel 33:46
I don't remember I probably have it; no I don't remember. That would have been, when did they come, I think that was the 1870s, the Ruckles, and the first Henry Ruckle.

Audience member 33:56
(unintelligible contribution)

Tom Koppel 34:01
Okay, so, yeah, so yeah, I think was it was in the 1870s that they (unintelligible). By 1877, we have four Kanakas on the voting list. On Salt Spring. You have this original Nauwana, William Nauwana, who is the ancestor of the Lumleey family. There's Naukana, who's here being spelled Nunkana, listed as being in Fulford. Nauwana is in Fulford, Palua on Portland Island, and William Haumea, who he took the land right opposite Russell Island. I believe it's where the Ungers live today. There's an orchard there and most of these other people were listed as farmers he was listed as a fruit grower. And I believe that he planted those orchards at the Unger place and also on Russell Island, because in 1886, he preempted land on Russell Island as well, which is right, it was right across virtually a stone's throw away from him, I mean an easy, an easy row in a boat

Audience member 35:22

Tom Koppel 35:23
What? Fruit trees there, yes. Okay, it could have been all one. I don't know. I mean, I'm not saying that they were the only fruit growers but this...

Audience member 35:38

Tom Koppel 35:40
Really? Okay. I don't know. What there's a lot of trees there? There are a lot of fruit trees?

Audience member 35:52

Tom Koppel 35:52
Okay. It's anyway, it's along that shore, somewhere along that shore is where he preempted his land. By 1881, there were a few more names pop up. One named Komari, who's on Portland Island is listed as a labourer and he didn't preempt land, I guess he worked for one of the other people. Someone named Lakuaman (?). Now. There's a problem there too. Because the the ROlands believe that, apparently William Naukana was nicknamed likoma or Likimee. And I don't know what that what that means. Try to find out but, the here's somebody else named Lakuaman, on Portland Island. And I don't know if it's a relative or, or what. I mean, it's definitely not the same person because they gave the ages. He appears in the census and, it just couldn't be the same person. Anyway, so he's on Portland Island. Nuwana is now listed as being on Isabella point.

Tom Koppel 36:59
Naukana is being listed in Fulford as a farmer, and Palua on Portland Island. Then a few years later, a John Pevine Kahu appeared now he apparently built the cabin that's at the edge of Ruckle Park. But if anyone knows Dave Beck, in a little old log cabin, it's still there, slowly rotting away. But I mean, it's been livable until quite recently. And this cabin had to have been built in the period between 1883 and 1892. He apparently lived there just for that period, then he disappears from these records. Again, when Ruckle said that, according to some parks, a little bit of history done on the park, that those were the years 1883 to 1892 that he lived there. And there's some conflicting stories. His wife apparently died in childbirth. That's one, one version of the story. His wife was supposedly the daughter of this William Haumea, which makes sense, he lived very close by. And Mary Davidson's aunt, Maggie Lee described it. And now she couldn't, she's not old enough to acknowledge him, but she must have heard this. She described him as a miserable drunken coon. This is this, John Pevine. Anyway, that's the derivation of the Pevine cottage. Now, somewhere in here, the Nuwana name changes to Kahana and then later, it changes to Tahouney. So, somehow, Nuwana, what's that?

Audience member 38:41
Tahouney (pronouncing it differently)

Tom Koppel 38:42
Tahouney? Okay, I mean, I will not, I've seen so many different spellings, but somehow

Audience member 38:46
I knew them then

Tom Koppel 38:48
You knew them? Tahouney. Okay. So, there was, there was one family, or an extended family, but the names are quite confusing. Nuwana, Kahana, Tahouney, Tahouney. And just to show you how strange all this is, when, when William Naukana died, or at least on his gravestone at St. Paul's Catholic Church, he's listed as William Nokin, N-O-K-I-N. So, his name has gone through another major transformation. Another few Kanaka names appear during this period. This was now the 1880s, 1890s, there's a family called Kahana Nui. And there's a man named Hanna Leo, but it's also listed a Kanaka. a Kai Williams, a Willie Shepard, who was apparently a Kanaka.

Tom Koppel 39:47
Oh, yes. And, uh, George Napoleon Parker. There you've got a great Kanaka, name for, you could tell anytime that he's a Kanaka (laughter) Oh, I was gonna say fortunately, there was this master's thesis done by this woman from the University of Hawaii. And she, she, I didn't think her research was that great in any other way but she, she somehow worked through all of these census censuses and made a kind of master list of all the Kanaka names. So temporarily, I'm trusting her master list. I don't know if I really would trust it fully, but I kind of cross reference to her list. Anyway, there you have it, there's about 10 to 15 families. Now some of these were very large families, for example. I think it was was the Nuwana. They had 12 children. And if you look on a, on a map, or actually if you're, if you're halfway to Swartz Bay on the ferry and look around you, you realize that you're perfectly centered in this Kanaka community because there's Coal Island, Piers Island, Portland Island, Russel Island, and there's Isabella Point and there's Beaver Point. And all of these are really within about five miles rowing distance, or six miles, something like that. And their kids on Portland Island, or on Russel Island, were able to row to school. Some of them went to, well at first, they went to Beaver Point school. And there's some memories from the teachers there of the kids coming all the way from Portland Island. Later on, some of them went to Isabella Point. In the end, Isabella point became the centre. Really. In fact, according to the Rolands, it became such a problem for the kids rowing to school from Portland Island, it's such a long distance really, and these are little kids trying to row over to Beaver Point in the winter, that kids were missing so much school that the family basically began to consolidate onto Isabella point. However, before this happened, you did have this very spread out community and yet it was it was centered around, everything went by boat. People didn't hike. I mean, even if you went from Beaver Point to Isabella Point, you would go by boat. There were no good roads. I mean you wouldn't, you wouldn't go overland. Everything was done by boat. All the houses were on the waterfront, at least those houses were.

Tom Koppel 42:27
They were able to get together around some of their traditional customs. And one of the interesting ones was the traditional luau. They would have these big winter feasts, where they would make a, cook in a pit in the beach, dig a huge hole, and put in fish and clams and meat and vegetables. After they've made a fire, first they make a fire, hot stones. Then they'd put in the food on top of it, on top of seaweed, cover the whole thing again, with seaweed and old carpets and any kind of tarp they could find. And let it cook for many hours. And this is the kind of feast they had. Apparently, they were quite musical, a lot of them played the ukulele. And so, there was singing and dancing and homemade booch, apparently it played a big role, with a lot of drinking going on, and dancing and according to the Rolands, these parties went on for weeks on end, sort of moving from island to island, that they would start at Coal Island and they'd move over to Piers Island, they'd end up on Isabella point. And so, this is how they entertain themselves. The memories, again from mainly from the Rolands are all positive in the sense that apparently that there was no starvation, there was no real hardship, that the, the environment was so rich. There was so much fish, clams, berries, and the gardens worked out well and that most of the memories are of abundance rather than hardship. The same is perhaps less true in terms of work. They a lot of them subsisted on fishing and farming and as I said there were squatters. But as time went on, some of them got into other cash or wage labour, I should say. Some went off to fish for the commercial fisheries, now particularly mentioned was hand trolling in Dorries at the mouth of the Fraser. They were experienced fishermen and they'd be hired by big fish companies to go there. Later on, some went to logging camps, sawmills sprang up on Salt Spring and the Rolands, so now we're already into the 20th century. The Rolands remembered that their father worked in the sawmills, they were mainly cutting railway ties. In fact, the Rolands worked for the sawmill at Cusheon Cove, forget the name of that mill, but there was a giant mill.

Audience member 45:28
They called it the Cusheon Cove mill.

Tom Koppel 45:30
Cusheon Cove mill? Yeah, anyway, there's a big mill until the, the pier fell down with a million board feet of lumber on it.

Audience member 45:39

Tom Koppel 45:39
Did you see? Well I've seen the footings of the big pier that went out

Tom Koppel 45:47
Yeah, so anyway there was there, there were ways to make a living on this island. That was one of them. Another one was ferrying just in an open boat. Some of them were hired to bring people back and forth, there was no regular ferry service in the 1860s or 1870s. And some of them were hired to bring people back and forth between Vancouver Island and, and the mainland. And in fact, there's some indication that it was a, that a couple of Kanakas were there as the boat crew when there was a murder on Saturna Island.

Audience member 45:47

Tom Koppel 45:51
I don't know if you've read about that. I remember reading about it, it was someone named Marx, a German immigrant daughter, and they were killed in a murder on Saturna Island. Well, apparently the people who were ferrying them were Kanakas who had dropped them off, gotten, gotten away or something.

Audience member 46:41
Is there any indication about what kind of boats, did they used traditional Hawaiian boats at al or?

Tom Koppel 46:45
I don't think so. I've never seen anything about that. No, but, but it's a good question. Because I don't know. I mean, people did build their own boats. And perhaps they built different types of boats than the others. But no, I have no idea. They say they; this is the only place that I know of that I've been able to find that there seems to have been some continuity. As I say, based on intermarriage. There were the all up and down the coast, you have to understand that the first, the first group, especially, were all men, there were no women brought over, as far as I know, to work for the Hudson's Bay Company, I doubt it. I doubt that there any. And so, what were these men to do in terms of finding a wife? They were at the lowest end of the social ladder. In the end most of them married Indian women. Now, on the other hand, women were in short supply on the coast, at least white women were in short supply. Their offspring, a lot of them married white men, if they were, sorry, the women, the daughters of the second generation of the Kanakas, a lot of them married white men. I think this was a common pattern on, in frontier areas. Anyway, this seems to have been the pattern here, except that the one exception, and this holds true for the Kanakas, up coast, like there, there Kanakas who went to North Hobble Down Island, and there were Kanakas in Lady Smith. And there were, there were six of them on, on the jury rolls in Nanaimo in the 1860s, most of them working for the Vancouver coal company. The reason I know about this is that one of them committed a murder. And he, he killed his Indian wife and family and was put on trial and convicted and hanged. And he's buried on Newcastle Island at a place called Kanaka Bay. At the time of his trial, and this is another interesting little sidelight, this is the 18, late 1860s. At the time of his trial, he was not represented, in fact he had a lawyer, but his lawyer was in touch with a console, there was a Hawaiian console in Victoria. Hawaii was a separate country, Kingdom of Hawaii, and they had a console in Victoria, to look after trade, and also to look after the wellbeing of these Kanakas. And there's a letter from this console to the judge saying thank you, I'm satisfied that it was a fair trial, the evidence was okay, etc, etc. So even though they were living here, they still were, in some sense represented and had had some ties still back to the Kingdom of Hawaii. Although, again, I don't think there were very many. There was no real source of new Kanaka blood at that point. I don't think any large numbers were coming over to, to Hawaii, from Hawaii, after about the 1860s.

Audience member 50:05
What about those that were supposed to have jumped ship?

Tom Koppel 50:09
Well, I don't know about that story, you know. I don't believe that now, many things that I read, I don’t think, I think that that's just some, someone finding out that there Kanakas here who said they jumped ship. I mean, no, no way to prove it one way or the other. Why should they jump ship? I think this was, I mean, this place was this area was open to immigration. They, they were essentially welcome here.

Tom Koppel 50:38
That's another important point where they were not allowed to have citizenship in the United States. They were immediately allowed to have citizenship here. And they go right on the voters’ rolls. And they were allowed to preempt land. They actually were, you know, they found a good spot. I would say looking back they did quite well.

Audience member 51:01

Tom Koppel 51:06
That was the centre, that was, yeah. And if you look at the, the, the children here in 1905, at the Isabella point school, this photograph, you realize most of the kids there are Kanaka, and the boy who's getting the honour roll. Willie Palua? This is 1905. He's obviously Kanaka. And Laura Rowland went through the photo with me today she said oh, yeah, there's my great grandmother and here is my aunt and this one so-and-so. So, there was quite a community on Isabella point. Now, I just want to wrap this up. I can't, I can't go into the details of every family tree. I don't have them all. I mean, there was so much intermarriage. It's really quite complicated. But one that I've sort of traced as much as I can, is this, the Russell Island stories. I want to get back to that, that's where I started, that's where we're I'll end. Russel Island was preempted in 1886 by this William Haumea, who also had property in the Beaver Point area. There was a, an American captain, named Abel Douglas living on Salt Spring Island at that time, he was the first whaling captain on this coast. He, for a couple of years was fairly successful. He whaled out of Cortez Island, Whaletown. And out of, I think Hornby, it was a short-lived whaling company. He then went into sealing, seal fishery. Oh, that's another thing by the way. Some of the children of the Kanakas around the turn of the century went off to the Bering Sea seal fishery. And this is one thing I'm trying to track down because I was told that there was a ship sank, and several of them died and that there were other Salt Spring men on that ship too, it wasn't just Kanakas, so that there was a ship that went down in around 1904 in the Bering Sea, and if anyone knows anything about it, I'd like to know about it, even the name of it, I've been trying to find out. I'll find out somehow, look through all the possible sinkings and trace it back but. Okay, so this Abel Douglas was an American. He was from San Francisco. He had come up here in the 1860s and late 1860s into about 1870, 871. He was still wailing on this coast.

Tom Koppel 53:56
He then married a Kanaka girl and I say girl, she was only about 15 named Maria Mahoi. And we have some pictures of her fortunately. She was probably only half Kanaka, I'm not certain of that. But she was born here. She was born in either Esquimalt, or one of her descendants said Esquimalt but the papers say somewhere else (unintelligible) Anyway, she was born in the Victoria area. And he married her, and they live at top of Lee’s Hill, they had a had a farm near Ford's Lake, somewhere in that area. And she was known as a, an excellent midwife. That's the one thing that's remembered about her when she was young. They had seven children. And then he disappeared on he was he didn't get lost up in the Bering Sea, which wouldn't be that surprising, he was apparently, he just disappeared on his on his sloop, which was making runs back and forth between Vancouver Island and New Westminster. And question is did he drown or did he run away or what? Anyway, he may well have drowned, and anyway, he disappeared. And I guess after a certain length of time a woman was allowed to remarry. So, she was about 35 or 36. She remarried and she had another seven children. This is a large family. So, the first family that she had with the Douglasses and the second family, the second guy she married was a younger man actually named George Fisher. And he was from Piers Island. And although Piers Island had some Kanakas, it doesn't seem that he was Kanaka, he was apparently half British half Indian. The Douglas children, this is an interesting aspect when you try to do historical research, the women disappear because their names are not carried on. So, it's very hard to find out what happened to the women.

Tom Koppel 56:04
Where did they go who they marry, right. There's a few by looking through the, the censuses, I found a few cases of like there was one Kanaka woman married to a guy on Saturna Island. But in most of these cases, we have to assume that the women moved away but the men, we were able to trace them and the oldest one, George Douglas, became one of the first settlers on Lasqueti Island, I have to say there's something about islands for these Kanakas. Anyway, he started a family that's still there on Lasqueti. There's still some Douglasses on Lasqueti Island. And he became a farmer, fishermen, not too surprisingly, that's what most of them did. Another one of their sons is named Abel Douglas, after the father. And he was either a fisherman or a logger. I read conflicting things. I heard conflicting things on that.

Tom Koppel 56:59
But he went off and wasn't around much, but he came back to Russel Island, in his old age, and was actually there until 1960 when the royal family bought the island, and he was still living there. They called him Uncle Abel, and he lived on a little while longer then, he was quite old, and he went into, moved to an old age home in Victoria. He died in 1966. I found that in the archives, another son he was named Alfred and he was murdered in a drunken card game on Beaver Point by someone named Williams I don't know if this was the Kai Williams, the other Kanaka or not, anyway, apparently things got hot and heavy, and he was shot. And the guy who killed him went to jail for 21 years. It is reported, it was a poker game. Okay, then Maria Mahoi remarries in about 1891 or 1892. And has seven more children. And these are the Fisher children. And they all went to school at Beaver Point, apparently, and the early teachers of the Beaver Point school say that they remember the Fisher kids rowing over.

Audience member 58:19

Tom Koppel 58:22
There too? Yeah. Okay, that's later then.

Audience member 58:26

Tom Koppel 58:28
What's that? Well, you're talking about a much later period. In fact, I don't think the Isabella point school was built until something like 1902.

Audience member 58:37
6 (unintelligible)

Tom Koppel 58:38
6? Yeah. Yeah. Anyway.

Audience member 58:47

Tom Koppel 58:47
1890s, or well not, getting to the turn of the century.

Tom Koppel 58:51
Um, we have pictures hold up here. So, let's see the Fisher kids. Well, I'm not going to tell you the story, all of them but, I don't know the story of all of them. The last one to stay on Russell Island was Ernie Fisher, who was there till about the 19, early 1950s I believe. The oh, I didn't mention when they got Russel Island ah okay. After, after this first marriage to Abel Douglas. Now they lived on Salt Spring Island. She remarried this, George Fisher. And she also inherited Russel Island, now this is a bit of a mystery. It's not clear whether she was somehow related to this William Haumea. Or another story is that she had tended him in his old age, and he didn't have any other children left or something. Anyway, the island was left to her. And so, I was able to trace the deed. And so, in 1908, she inherited Russel Island. And the Fisher family then moved out to Russell Island. And they, they built a little sort of saltbox house that's still there where I was living when I was a caretaker, and you are hoping to move back into when it's rebuilt. Anyway, so this is I guess, maybe 1910 or so they built this house and it's still standing, sturdy little house.

Audience member 58:51

Audience member 1:00:33
They had newspapers on the wall, from 6 (unintelligible)

Tom Koppel 1:00:39
1906? Oh really, so they built it before the official...

Audience member 1:00:45
We don't know how the newspapers got there but...

Tom Koppel 1:00:46
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, that's interesting. The Fisher descendants remember the island back in the 1920s. And they said, now there's an orchard there is quite, quite a sizable clearing. Maybe it's been growing in, but I would say a couple of acres had been cleared right?

Tom Koppel 1:01:15
And there was a well, not a very good well, but there was a well. So you could you could have a garden. Apparently, they were known for having the earliest strawberries, they did market gardening. It's very warm on Russell Island. It's really the southernmost area, and it gets lots of sun, it's quite sheltered, surrounded ff course by water, so they it's quite mild climate and they had very early strawberries. This, Ernie Fisher had a gill net boat, and he basically made his living with his gillnetter and this Maria Mahoi, who was now into her 60s is digging clams for a living. And her grandson, Harry Roberts is now a retired man in Parksville. And I interviewed him, and he said that it was absolute paradise in those days, it was they had cows or at least a cow, they had sheep on the island, everything. The orchard was nicely fenced so that the animals couldn't get in there. But of course, being an island, they didn't have to have fences around the whole perimeter, it was about 40 acres, just enough for a family and apparently it was just a wonderful place to live. And he was, he was brought there in the summer to visit his grandparents and to spend quite a long time there. Weekends and weeks at a time. He has memories of this Maria Mahoi. This is this woman who's in her at least her late 60s by then, or maybe in her 70s because she, she died in 1936. And she was about 80 so she probably was in her 70s by the time he's remembering, said that she could lift a sack of clams, said that she could wrestle a big octopus off the rocks. I like the image of that. He said she'd go down at low tide and find an octopus and start grabbing and the octopus would wrestle back and he said but the octopus always ended up in the pot.