The Voyage of the Lydia.

In last week’s episode, we discovered the unhappy coincidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition spending a hard winter at Fort Clatsop, surviving on lean elk meat and whale oil while just across the Columbia River, and the brig Lydia was anchored up trading furs with the Indians.

This causes questions to be asked, such as, with over 100 American ships trading on the Northwest coast between 1788 and 1803, why didn’t President Jefferson send a ship to rescue or resupply the Corps of Discovery after their harrowing journey across the continent?

It could be because Jefferson had no way of knowing when or where on the coast the Corps of Discovery would emerge or if the expedition had even survived.

Why didn’t the Indians tell Lewis and Clark about the Lydia?

This had a lot to do with the antagonistic relationship the explorers had with the Chinook, a tribe with years of experience in dealing with the fur traders who ventured over the bar and into the Columbia River.

For Lewis and Clark, trade was a matter of survival. For the Chinook, it was part business, part entertainment and all profit. Lewis and Clark had little to trade with the Chinook.

Misunderstandings arose. Despite spending the winter in peaceful proximity, Lewis branded the Chinook as treacherous “close dealers,” for their trading skills.

The Chinook thought the explorers were poverty-stricken vagabonds. Visiting Chinook chiefs were not allowed to stay overnight at Fort Clatsop. They were evicted at nightfall. This did not make friends among the Chinook, who neglected to mention the Lydia sitting with plenty of provisions just across the river.

Curiously, John Jewitt was aboard the Lydia. He had been rescued by the Lydia after being held captive for two years by Maquinna, Chief of the Nootka on Vancouver Island.

Maquinna had a long history of dealing with Europeans. Beginning in 1785, when John Hanna opened the sea otter trade by inviting Maquinna aboard his ship, The Sea Otter.

Maquinna was given a chair above a pile of gun powder and told this was an honor the English gave chiefs. Thinking it was dark sand, Maquinna sat in the chair while a sailor lit the charge, blowing the chief up into the air and burning his back side.

When someone stole a chisel from the Sea Otter, Hanna opened fire with a cannon on canoes full of Indians, killing 20 — including several chiefs.

Another trader entered Maquinna’s house, scared his nine wives and stole 40 sea otter skins. The Spanish Commander Martinez killed Maquinna’s friend, and fellow Nootka chief, Callicum. All of which convinced Maquinna to get his revenge on the next European ship he encountered.

That was in 1804, when a Captain Salter of the trading ship Boston insulted Maquinna over a broken shotgun. Maquinna took the ship, killing everyone aboard but a sail maker and the blacksmith Jewitt, who eventually got a written message to Yutramaki, a Makah Chief who gave it to Captain Hill of the Lydia, who took Maquinna hostage to gain Jewitt’s release.

The story of the Lydia and Yutramaki does not end there.

They rescued the survivors of the Russian ship, Sv. Nikolai. It had shipwrecked just North of LaPush in November 1806. The 22 survivors fled south in a running battle with the Quileute.

While crossing the Hoh River, Anna Petrovna, wife of the Captain of the Nikolai, was captured. The other survivors spent the winter on the upper Hoh until their eventual capture.

Once again, Yutramaki negotiated the ransom and release of 13 survivors to the Lydia.

We must own our history to evolve.

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The Voyage of the Lydia: Part One.

Spring is a time of spiritual renewal along with Easter, Ramadan and Passover. There is, however, another seasonal ritual that’s older than all these traditions put together, the First Salmon Ceremony.

It’s a ritual celebrated by Native Americans throughout the range and history of the salmon, which goes back to the end of the last ice age, 15,000 before present.

The First Salmon Ceremony is one of the oldest expressions of human faith where the salmon are thanked for returning to the river.

The salmon were said to have come from a big house at the bottom of the ocean where they lived in human form.

When the time came to run up the rivers, they put on salmon robes. The salmon volunteered to sacrifice their bodies for food for mankind, the animals, the birds and the forest.

It was believed that as long as the first salmon was treated with honor, its bones washed and returned to the river and not one scrap of its flesh fed to the dogs, the salmon would run forever.

All of which would go a long way to explain the decline of salmon lately.

It seems that only yesterday Lewis and Clark observed a First Salmon Ceremony on April 19, 1806, at The Dalles on the Columbia River.

Captain Clark observed, “The whole village was rejoicing today over having caught a single salmon, which was considered as the harbinger of vast quantities in four or five days. In order to hasten their arrival, the Indians, according to custom, dressed the fish and cut it into small pieces, one of which was given to every child in the village.”

The Corps of Discovery was in trouble at the time.

After a soggy winter at Fort Clatsop, they headed back up the flood-staged Columbia in late March, with nothing more than a handful of trade goods that could be carried in “two handkerchiefs.”

Fortunately, during the winter they had made 300 or 400 pairs of elk-hide moccasins. Captain Clark had sealed their remaining 140 pounds of gunpowder inside waterproof lead canisters so they had plenty of ammunition.

However, Captain Lewis lamented the fact that President Jefferson hadn’t sent a ship to rescue or supply the expedition at the mouth of the Columbia. It would have been nice.

All winter they subsisted on lean elk meat while trying to trade for food with the hard-bargaining Columbia River tribes, who already had experience in the sea otter trade that began in 1778, when Captain Cook sailed past our coast or what was known as “New Albion.”

Cook missed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fog, naming Cape Flattery as an historic insult to the navigator for whom the then-imaginary Strait was named.

Captain Cook proceeded to Vancouver Island, where by chance they traded with the Nootka People for 20 sea otter skins that were worth $800 in China.

In 1785, James, (AKA John) Hanna opened the sea otter trade, killing an estimated 70 Nootka men, women and children, to trade 500 skins worth $20,000 in China. The rush was on.

Hanna was soon followed by the American Captain Robert Gray, who first entered the mouth of the Columbia on May 11, 1792, slaughtering a canoe load of 20 Indians with cannon fire on the way.

Gray was followed in 1806 by the brig Lydia. Unknown to Lewis and Clark, the Lydia was anchored just across the river from them.

Next week: The story of the Lydia and her place in the history of the Olympic Peninsula.

A Short History of Fishing Laws.

In last week’s episode, we were exploring a bizarre bit of bureaucratic bungling where the state of Washington demands that we purchase our new fishing license on April 1, but does not come out with the fishing laws until the end of June or maybe sometime in July — depending on factors not available at this time.

Given the fact that fishing violations can involve fines of up to $5,000, forfeiture of fishing gear, fishing boat and the truck that you towed all that stuff around with, many people have simply quit fishing in Washington altogether because it’s too complicated, expensive and downright dangerous.

Who could blame them?

The fishing laws in Washington are so complicated that almost no one can understand them.

This was not always the case.

The kings of England and Scotland started making fishing laws back in the Middle Ages.

Generally speaking, the fishing was much better in the Middle Ages than it is today. The fishing laws were much simpler, although violations could involve a more severe punishment.

For example, in 1318, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, declared that a person convicted of poaching salmon on a royal estate for the second time could be put to death.

King Edward III of England made it illegal to use salmon for pig feed.

In the 1100s, Richard the Lionheart may have come up with our oldest fishing law.

During Richard’s reign, described by some historians as an “orgy of medieval savagery,” it became illegal to block a salmon stream.

Flash forward to our modern world of the future, where we have spent the last century building dams with no fish passage in our state.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there are more than 19,000 barriers stopping fish passage.

Of these, there are approximately 2,000 culverts that impede fish.

In 2001, the Treaty Tribes of Washington sued the state of Washington over the culverts that were blocking 1,000 miles of streams — ultimately winning a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018, giving Washington until 2030 to fix its culverts.

That is happening now with the passage of the Infrastructure, Investments and Jobs Act of 2021 that provides up to $5 billion for a nationwide effort to eliminate fish passage barriers.

These are defined as anything that hinders fish from moving upstream or down. That could include a dam, culvert or smolt trap.

Every spring our streams are blocked by smolt traps that catch young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream out to sea. Smolt traps can be a valid method of gathering data, but not if they block the entire stream.

In the spring, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat migrate up our creeks to spawn, but they can’t if the stream is blocked by a smolt trap.

When fish are stuck below a smolt trap, they are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators — including people who know that fishing in front of a smolt trap can be awesome.

Steelhead that migrated upstream before the smolt trap was installed can’t get back downstream once the smolt trap blocks the creek.

Steelhead do not die like salmon after they spawn.

Steelhead go back downstream to the ocean so they can come back and spawn again — unless there’s a smolt trap. Fishing above a smolt trap can be awesome.

Meanwhile, the young salmon, steelhead and cutthroat caught in the traps are in danger of floods, predators and rough handling during the most vulnerable time in their lives, when they miraculously transition from fresh to salt water.

Where’s Richard the Lionheart when you need him?

 

April Fools’ Fun

And so, my favorite holiday, April Fools’ Day, passes astern. Here’s hoping yours was the best ever!

Over the years, who could forget the dreadful series of unfortunate April Fools’ jokes played on the hapless inmates of a remote fish camp located somewhere in a remote corner of the rainforest, back before the government outlawed fishing? Where the childish antics of a few ruined the pristine nature experience for many.

It was a mistake to choke down the borax-flavored pancakes smothered in pickled herring syrup. I tried washing them down with some hot coffee, surreptitiously seasoned with enough cayenne pepper to melt a railroad spike. It was at about that time I noticed that my boots were on fire.

What was an April Fools’ joke had just been upgraded to an act of environmental terrorism. I thought of my carbon footprint, and the effect of soapy pancakes on my delicate constitution, as I headed for the outhouse, where someone tossed in a seal bomb while I was desperately employing the facilities.

Like our other holidays, April Fools’ Day requires extensive preparations. To get ready for Christmas, we chop down a tree. To get ready for Easter, we boil and color eggs. April Fools’ Day can require more preparation and hassle than all those other holidays put together — if you fish.

That’s because a large part of the mirth, frivolity and mad-cap sense of the absurd is not performed by anonymous drunken fisherman, but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of getting even with. This is due to the happy coincidence where April 1 is the day chosen by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to require a new fishing license.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable. You didn’t know that they also have a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge — but they do. Why else would they insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

It’s hoped that money from fishing license and punch card sales will provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

Punch cards are little pieces of shiny paper that are to be filled out to record your catch of salmon, steelhead, crab and halibut. The punch card must be filled out in ink. Part of the difficulty of filling out the punch card in ink is that they are printed on paper that ink will not adhere to.

Just getting a frozen or wet pen to work often results in an ink blot on your punch card that resembles a Rorschach test. If you get your punch card wet, the ink washes off, leaving a blank piece of paper so you have no idea where to record your catch.

We are assured that someone in the government actually reads the punch cards, but how could they? It’s all part of the April Fools’ Day fun.

Getting a fishing license on April Fools’ Day is a really great prank, because the state does not come out with the fishing laws until July.

Last year, the fishing laws did not come out until August — on Friday the 13th.

Was that just a coincidence? I think not.

If you buy your fishing license on April 1, you won’t know if you can even use it until months later.

It’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever.

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