Book: Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story) by James & Lance Morcancategories: Book, Historical Novel, Historical Adventure, First Nations, Native Americans, John Jewitt, Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, Historical Fiction
Lance Morcanabout this book: Into the Americas brings to life an intriguing slice of North American history. It's essentially a clash of two civilizations – North America's First Nations people of the Northwest Pacific and the whites who arrived in their tall ships. One of those new arrivals was young English seaman John Jewitt who was only nineteen when he ended up a captive of the fierce Mowachaht tribe.
Jewitt's story must surely be one of the great true survival tales of all time.
In writing this novel, we were greatly aided by Jewitt's diary. He goes to great lengths to describe his surroundings at Nootka Sound, the diet, clothing and customs of his Mowachaht captors, their fishing, hunting and construction methods, the materials they used and so on.
Jewitt's description of the events leading up to the massacre of his crewmates doesn't tell the full story, which is that the Mowachahts – like most or all the tribes of the Pacific Northwest – had put up with many, many years of abuse by successive Spanish, English and American traders. History shows that the abuse ranged from unfair trades to the frequent rape of indigenous women and all too often to murder.
There's no denying the Mowachahts were savage, and we portray that savagery in no uncertain terms. Jewitt himself writes of their barbarity in his diary. However, he also refers to the kindness and generosity of the Mowachahts and their love of family, and the examples he gives far outweigh references to their savagery.
The inescapable violence that is highlighted throughout this novel is tempered by the true-life romance between Jewitt and Eu-stochee, a local maiden who catches his eye and who ultimately became the mother of his son. Their romance prompted one reviewer to describe Into the Americas as "a Romeo and Juliet story set in the wilderness".
As a footnote, we were intrigued to learn that in 2003, John R. Jewitt, a sixth-generation descendant of John Jewitt, traveled to Vancouver Island to meet with Mike Maquina, a descendant of the Mowachaht chief who captured Jewitt and who spared his life despite the protestations of many members of the tribe. That poignant meeting marked the 200th anniversary of their forefathers meeting.
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