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Kanaka Timeline in the Pacific Northwest

Kanaka gathering
1778 January 20, 1778, Captain James Cook discovers Hawaii, which he names the “Sandwich Islands” after the Earl Of Sandwich. See here for a map of Cook’s third and final voyage.
1787 Winee, a young woman hired as the personal servant of the captain’s wife, is the first Hawaiian to visit the Pacific Northwest on the British merchant ship, Imperial Eagle. They land at Nootka Sound. Unfortunately, she dies at sea never making it back to Hawaii.
1788 Tianna, “Prince of Atooi”, is the second Hawaiian to reach the Pacific Northwest, again landing at Nootka Sound.
1778 > Hawaii, or Owyhee, is a provisioning stop for vessels traveling between continents; many Hawaiians with their maritime expertise are taken on as replacement workers. Owyhee comes from an old spelling of Hawaii based on a report from Captain James Cook stating that it was the native or Hawaiian name for the islands.
1811 The American  ‘Pacific Fur Company,’ owned by Jacob Astor, hire the first Owhyhees for the fur trade. First Trading Post is established at Astoria (Oregon). The Owhyhees excel at swimming, hunting, fishing, post construction as well as paddling canoes. In 1813, Astoria is turned over to the North West Company, a Montreal based company. Fort Astoria is eventually renamed Fort George and later relocated.
1811 Naukane, a retainer of the Hawaiian royal family, travels to the northwest coast in 1811 where he is nicknamed John Coxe. He becomes the first Hawaiian Islander to visit the Inland Northwest.  Online article at According to family history, one of Salt Spring Island’s pioneer Kanaka, William Naukana, is related through Naukane
to the royal family. (See Dictionary of Canadian Biography online,
Roland audio files, - Roland family tree
1812 War breaks out between the United States and Britain
1817 War ends between the USA and Britain but the border on the Pacific coast is not established.
1820’s By this time, Owhyhees are routinely hired for the fur trade and much prized as workers. Most sign a two or three year contract; some stay, others return to Hawaii.  ‘Chinook Jargon’ develops as a pidgin language of trade for the Pacific Northwest, and spreads quickly up the West Coast from what is now known as Oregon to Alaska. English, as the dominant language, gradually replaces it. An Owhyhee, or Sandwich Islander, also becomes known by the Hawaiian word for human being, Kanaka. Its plural in Hawaiian is not formed by adding s, but by a change in the first vowel to a long a. The English plural, Kanakas, is also used.
1821 Hudson’s Bay Company absorbs its rival, the Northwest Trading Company. HBC forts span the continent from the West to the East coast.
1824-25 Fort Vancouver (today, Vancouver, Washington) is built upstream on the north side of the Columbia River as it is thought that the Columbia River would form the new border. Fort Vancouver is destined to become the principal fort of the Pacific section of the vast HBC domain. (See for maps showing the areas controlled by the Hudson Bay Company.) The number of Kanaka later becomes large enough that their living area becomes known as Kanaka Village. John McLoughlin is appointed as Chief Factor of the HBC at Fort Vancouver. He is in charge for many years.
1827 Fort Langley on the Fraser River is established. Six Owhyhees, listed as crew on the Cadboro are the first Hawaiians to help to build the fort. Some later settle across the river at Kanaka Creek, Maple Ridge.
1828-29 HBC expands from being just a fur trading company into trading with Native peoples for other goods. Timber and salmon become primary trading commodities with the Hawaii.  (Fort Langley, salmon; Fort Vancouver, timber) The voyage from the Pacific Northwest to the Sandwich Islands takes about three weeks. HBC appoints an agent in Honolulu to sell timber and salmon from the Northwest and to hire men for the fur trade and cargo for the return trip.
1845 The Honolulu agency hires missionary William Kaulehelehe, later known as Kanaka William, to act as chaplain to the Kanaka at Fort Vancouver. He and his wife, Mary S. Kaai, settle in Kanaka Village in June. This area around Fort Vancouver becomes more established. In addition to having a church and minister, there is also a school.
1845 By this year, over 200 Hawaiians work for HBC in Pacific Northwest. Many Hawaiians choose to remain in the Northwest after their contracts expire. Given that there are very few Hawaiian females, some Kanaka intermarry with Native people.
1846 The boundary between the USA and Canada is set at the 49th parallel. The preference for silk rather than beaver hats brings about the decline of the fur trade, which finally collapses with the Gold Rush of 1858.
1846-50 Tensions develop between the American newcomers to the Oregon Territory and the former British HBC employees, affecting the lives of the Kanaka who are denied basic rights of citizenship. Oregon delegate, Samuel R, Thurston, to the US Congress speaks out against granting them land rights, “Those foreigners in Oregon, who have left the company, or shall leave it, and prove their love of our country by completing their final oath of love and allegiance, should have an appropriation, and be taken into the fold of American citizenship—aye, sir, should have a donation of land; but I am not giving land to Sandwich Islanders or negroes.”
See Barman, Leaving Paradise, p.138.
1848-51 Many Kanaka leave Fort Vancouver for the California Gold Rush.
1849 Fort Rupert, near present day Port Hardy, is built to protect coal deposits. Coal becomes important as fuel for the steamships. French Canadians, Kanaka and Englishmen form the crew building the post.
1849 Vancouver Island becomes a British colony. So many Kanaka settle in Fort Victoria that the area they live in becomes known as ‘Kanaka Row’. Today the Empress Hotel is located where the Hawaiians resided.  Another group settle at Kanaka Creek, Maple Ridge see Kanaka Creek Regional Park. (Why did so many settle in British controlled BC? One of the reasons was Kanaka had the same civil rights as other newcomers and could vote or pre-empt land provided they became naturalized as British citizens.)
1853 Both the USA and Britain claim the San Juan Islands. In order to establish possession, James Douglas, through the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, establishes Belle Vue sheep farm with Kanaka as shepherds and farmers. After the Americans take possession, most Kanaka leave the islands and settle across the water in British territory in Victoria and Saanich plus the Gulf Islands, especially Salt Spring Island.
1855 Maria Mahoi (Mohoy, Mahoya) was born to William Mahoya, a Hawaiian contracted to HBC and his native or part-native wife. Maria epitomizes the strength, independence, and resourcefulness of the pioneer Kanaka women in the Gulf Islands.  She went on to have 13 children by two fathers, the first, American Captain Abel Douglass and second, George Fisher. See Charles Kahn collection for a picture of Maria: Charles_Kahn_Collection/index.html#gallery-21
1858 The ‘Gold Rush’ in BC. Many Kanaka seek their fortunes in gold. Today we find their role honoured in place names along the Gold Rush Trail, such as Kanaka Bar  (and Kanaka Bar Tunnel) in the Fraser Canyon and nearby Kanaka Mountain. Also, there is an Owhyee, Fraser Canyon and the Kanaka Bar Indian Reserve. In the Okanogan, there is Kanaka Lake near Sicamous.
1859 The bloodless ‘Pig War’ breaks out between the British and American governments over the San Juan Islands. It was named this, as the only causality of the war was the actual pig that had been shot triggering the whole episode. Eventually, in 1872 the islands are ceded to the USA. A few Kanaka stay (e.g. Joe Friday, honoured by a bay known as ‘Friday Harbour’) but most leave.
1859 The Hawaiian government opens a consulate in Victoria.
1868 Kanaka Pete (Peter Kauhua) murders his native wife, her parents and his baby daughter. Pete is found guilty and hanged, later buried at the spot where he had been found and arrested on Newcastle Island, now named Kanaka Bay. See Tom Koppel’s book, Kanaka: the untold story and listen to SSI archive audio tape 46-2,
see article by W.J. Illerbrun - Hawaiian Journal of History in 1971:
1869 First Kanaka, Kiave (Kiavihow), pre-empts 160 acres at Isabella Point Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island. Others follow, among them, William Haumea (settled near Eleanor Point planting an orchard) and John Kahana. See Tahouney collection:
1871 First BC voters’ list shows William Haumea on Salt Spring Island.
1872 The San Juan Islands become American, resulting in exodus of many Kanaka to parts of BC, including the Gulf islands, especially Salt Spring Island.
1873 Kama Kamai, and his family settle on Coal Island, a small island near Portland Island. Kamai Point, Coal Island is named after him.
1874 William Newanna (Kahana), a Kanaka from San Juan and his family, settle at Isabella Point (family name later changed to Tahouney) See family tree:
1875 William Naukana & John Palua pre-empt land on Portland Island. They raise sheep, cattle, plant fruit trees and a vegetable garden-- even grow tobacco. William Naukana later sells his land on Portland and moves to Salt Spring Island where he passes away at the age of 96 in 1907 (See St. Paul’s cemetery:  grave marker, Nowkin. See William Naukana’s biography in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, online at
also see Roland family collection and Roland audiotapes.)
Portland Island is now part of the ‘Gulf Islands National Park Reserve’. On the island itself at the western tip is a bluff called Kanaka Bluff.
1885 St. Paul’s Church, built primarily by Kanaka, is consecrated. Salt Spring’s Kanaka are primarily Catholic. A visitor describes the south end of Salt Spring near Fulford Harbour to be  “a Kanaka or Sandwich Islander settlement” see Bea Hamilton’s book, Saltspring Island.
1885-1904 Kanaka children attend school at Beaver Point, the first school at SSI southern end. Most travel by canoe or rowboat. In 1904 Isabella Point school opens. Most of the early students are Kanaka. See 1905 photo of Willy Palua proudly holding his honour roll.
1886 William Haumea acquires a crown grant for Russell Island, located off of Fulford Harbour, later leaving it to Maria Mahoi. Plants fruit orchards.
1890s About 24 Kanaka families on Salt Spring Island
1902 Maria Mahoi moves to Russell Island with her husband George Fisher. She lives on the island until her death in 1936. George remains until his death in 1948. See:  Jean Barman’s book, Maria Mahoi of the Islands
1903 Several Salt Spring Kanaka die when the sealing schooner, Triumph, sinks in the Bering Sea.
1900-1970’s The Kanaka community becomes less close knit what with descendants marrying non-Kanaka, moving away and/or gradually becoming part of the mainstream community. Their ties to the past become weaker. The Kanaka legacy seems to be destined for obscurity. In the 70’s a visiting Hawaiian journalist, Mary Cooke hears about the local Hawaiians and through the support of her newspaper and Canadian Pacific Airlines, the Tahouneys and Rolands are invited to Hawaii leading to a revival of interest on Salt Spring Island in its Kanaka pioneers and their descendants.
1970’s Jackie Hembruff, a Nawana descendant, opens Kanaka Place Restaurant in Ganges, now the home of another restaurant called, ‘The Oystercatcher’.
1994 A Luau is held at Drummond Park on Fulford Harbour organized by the Hawaiian Connection to honour the ties between Kanaka descendants here and elsewhere. (First reunion is at Fort Langley in 1993.)
Today Kanaka place names on Saltspring Island are few, but do remind us of the role the Kanaka played in its settlement — Tahouney Road, Roland Road, Kanaka Road Skate Park on Kanaka Road and Kanaka Dinghy Dock in Ganges Harbour. Also, a Salt Spring Historical Society Plaque is located at St. Paul’s church — with leis made of shells circling the tops of headstones and markers of the Hawaiians buried in the cemetery. (Most Kanaka were Catholic; most of Salt Spring Island’s Kanaka are buried here). Some ways in which the Kanaka are remembered are unexpected. Recently a local brewery has honoured early pioneers by using portraits on their product labels. William Naukana is featured on their Porter Ale bottle.
This timeline features many, but not all of the Salt Spring Island Kanaka. As more information becomes available, it will be updated. Anyone having information or pictures should contact the archives at