While researching the history of The Sandwich Islands, Russian America and New Albion, (that would be Hawaii, Alaska and Washington on today’s maps) a disturbing reference to the first Hawaiian visitors to the North Olympic Peninsula was revealed. That would have been on July 4, 1828. It was a day that would live in infamy, if anyone remembered. That’s when the Hudson Bay schooner Cadboro destroyed a S’Klallam village in Dungeness Bay with cannon fire.
It was part of what Chief Factor John McLoughlin called a “punitive expedition” against the S’Klallam for the killing of HBC trader Alexander McKenzie and four company employees on Hood Canal. It seems McKenzie, who had just walked from Fort Vancouver had hired two S’Klallam youths to paddle their canoe from Port Gamble to Port Angeles, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, then on to Langley and then return to Port Gamble. The fact this voyage would be completed in an open dugout canoe in the dead of winter with no more preparation than we might make on a simple business trip proves that the old-timers around here were of a different breed.
Trader McKenzie was a mean one. He beat and kicked the lads who were paddling the canoes and then refused to pay the boy’s father for their services. That was a not a good idea. The S’Klallam had a reputation for being warlike since July of 1788 when the Englishman Robert Duffin piloted a longboat down the Strait of Juan de Fuca where it was, “pierced by a thousand arrows.”
MacKenzie should have known better. He camped without placing a guard. He and his party of four were killed that night on a place called Deadman’s Spit ever since. A woman travelling with the party was taken captive.
When word got back to Ft. Vancouver, Chief Factor John McLoughlin, a man known for his violent outbursts of temper decided to send a military force to Puget Sound as a warning to all the tribes that HBC fur brigades and traders were not to be harassed.
On June 17th Trader Alexander Mcleod left Ft. Vancouver with a force of 63 men bound for Puget Sound where they were to meet the Cadboro which had sailed from the Columbia River to meet them. Included in the party were two Iroquois and two “Owhyees” or Hawaiians.
The Iroquois had worked for the HBC as voyagers and mercenaries. They had a reputation as fierce warriors, no less than the Hawaiians so they must have got along well. A clerk with the expeditions describes how the “Iroquois, Owyhees, and Chinooks, (a tribe from southwest Washington) painted themselves ready for battle.” It was not much of a battle. The S’Klallam had reportedly prepared for the assault by wetting their blankets to ward off cannon balls which would illustrate the level of cultural misunderstanding.
On the morning of July 4th while negotiations were still underway for the release of the captive, who the clerk referred to as “this Helen of ours who will cause as siege as long as that of Troy” the Cadboro opened fire with three cannons destroying the village and forty-six canoes. The captive woman and some of MacKenzie’s effects were recovered.
The expedition returned to Vancouver having killed 27 people including women and children and burning another village in Port Townsend on the way. Trader McLeod was said to be pleased but the destruction of property was judged to be injurious to business. Macleod was not promoted to Chief Factor by the HBC. Those who ignore history are doomed to watch television.