Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-90

Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-90

Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-90

Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-90

Synopsis

Gunboat Frontier presents a different interpretation of Indian-white relations in nineteenth-century British Columbia, focusing on the interaction of West Coast Indians with British law and authority. This authority was exercised by officers, seamen, marines, and ships of the Royal Navy on behalf of the colonial governments of Vancouver Island and British Columbia and, after 1871, of Canada.

Excerpt

This is a book about the Royal Navy and Northwest Coast Indians from the time that Britain and the United States divided the last remaining quarter of the North American continent between themselves in 1846 to the end of British naval patrols on Indian duties in the late 1880's. It enquires into the way in which law, backed by armed authority, was transferred to a maritime frontier, heavily populated by natives and lying eighteen thousand miles by sea from the centre of empire in London. This is a story of gunboats, more correctly, sloops-of-war, corvettes and frigates, some of them steam-powered, some not. Because "Send a Gunboat!" was a cry voiced by British subjects at home and abroad, I have chosen to call this work Gunboat Frontier, and because this is a study of the extension of British influences, both imperial and colonial, by means of naval power, I have subtitled it British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians with approximate dates, 1846-90.

This book completes a trilogy on the maritime history of British Columbia. It is a companion to Distant Dominion: Britain and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1579-1809 (1980) and The Royal Navy and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1810-1914: a Study of British Maritime Ascendancy (1971). in the latter I noted that the subject of the Navy's relations with Coast Indians would be a topic of future enquiry. This book may serve to explain the intricacies in white-Indian relations in coastal British Columbia during the nineteenth century, particularly in the 1850's, 1860's, and 1870's. My objective has been to get as close to the historic interface of white and native societies as possible, and to describe and assess how each responded to the other. I have also sought to give this work a sense of place -- the environment of the natives and of the Navy's actions -- and to do this I have visited, wherever possible, every creek mouth and cave where the gunboat frontier was being exercised.

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