NOOTKA by Michael Hyde


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Being the Adventures of John Jewett, Seaman and based on the journal he kept as captive of the Nootka Indians from 1803 to 1805. . . but really the story of the Indian settlement at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, its rigorous code of behavior, the slow, insinuating rhythm of its life. John is a young, inclined-to-be-obliging armorer when, with the burly sailmaker ""Tom-soon,"" he is annexed by Chief Maquinna after the slaughter of their shipmates. As hopes of escape and rescue recede--traders will steer clear of the hostile Nootkas--the two relax into the Indian round (John teaching his skills and studying others, ""Sails"" even taking ceremonial charge of the captured cannon) yet remain apart, especially on Sunday when they retreat to the forest to pray, keep up the journal and write letters asking for rescue--John taking the illiterate Sails' dictation. So, punctuated by Maquinna's self-serving ""gift-giving,"" by winter migration and mid-winter ritual, more than two years pass--testament to the book's brisk authority is that interest never flags. There is only sporadic action (usually at Sails' instigation) until the climactic whale hunt when Maquinna, thanks to John's harpoon, redeems himself in the eyes of the tribe and can turn the boat over to his son Sat-sat, John's pupil and peer. Then, tricking the Indians but not dishonoring Maquinna or himself, John effects their escape. The proper tribute is well-done.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1969
Publisher: Walck