GIBSON, James R.

Author Tags: 1700-1800, 1800-1850, Agriculture, Early B.C., Forts and Fur

Winner of Lieutenant Governor's Medal for B.C. History.

Farming the Frontier: The Agricultural Opening of the Oregon Country 1786-1846. (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1985).

Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841 (McGill-Queen's, 1992).

The Lifeline of the Oregon Country: The Fraser-Columbia Brigade System, 1811-47 (UBC Press, 1997).

[BCBW 2010] "American" "Early B.C." "Forts and Fur"

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Farming the Frontier: The Agricultural Opening of the Oregon Country, 1786 - 1846
Imperial Russia in Frontier America: the Changing Geography of Supply of Russian America, 1784-1867

Otter Skins, Boston Ships and China Goods

"Unquestionably, the sea-otter trade also had a negative impact on the Northwest Coast Indians. Their health was impaired by alcohol and tobacco and their numbers were reduced by epidemics and fire-arms. It has been estimated that the Indian population of the Northwest Coast fell from about 188,000 in 1774 to about 38,000 in 1874, for an annual decrease of approximately 1.5 per cent (although the population estimates are questionable). Already by 1792 the Nootkas were 'excessively' fond of brandy, wine, and beer, coffee and tea, sweets, bread, and beans. Such dietary deterioration (bread and beans notwithstanding) soon affected the entire coast. Grog promoted sexual promiscuity, which in turn spread venereal disease, which in its own turn caused sterility and death. It was undoubtedly introduced in 1778 at Nootka Sound by Captain Cook's men, who were sexually active wherever they sojourned, especially at Tahiti and Hawaii but also at Nootka and Unalaska (where they found that VD had already been introduced by the Russians). Cook's sailors, like most Euroamerican visitors, found the Nootkan women much less aappealing (homelier and dirtier) than their Polynesian sisters, but 'nothwithstanding these circumstances, some few of our gentlemen got the better of their feelings, so far as to admit them to their bed, in which case the poor creatures always underwent the ceremony of the mop and pail.' By 1792, noted the Spaniards at Nootka Sound, 'the natives are already beginning to experience the terrible ravages of syphilis.' In 1811 syphilis and consumption (tuberculosis) were the most common afflictions of the Chinooks. Mortality was increased by firearms; by supplementing knives and clubs, guns with their greater firepower made Indian warfare deadlier. Mainly for these reasons the Indian population of Nootka Sound may have dropped from as many as 3,000-4,000 in 1788 to as few as 1,500 in 1804."