WIKINANISH (Huiquinanichi, Quiquinanis, Wickananish, Hiyoua), Nootka chief and furtrader; the name, spelled wikinaniš in a proper native orthography, means having no one in front of him in the canoe and suggests that, as the descendant of a long line of chiefs who had boys as their first-born, he was the direct heir to his father as chief; fl. 1788–93.
Wikinanish was the leading chief at Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, during the period of initial European contact and of the maritime fur trade. Accounts of a Wikinanish appear in the journals of European captains visiting the area from 1788 to 1818. Probably the references are to a succession of men who held the same name. It was reported, for example, that in 1792 Wikinanish gave his name to his eldest son and took for himself the name of Hiyoua (hayuˀa, ten [whales] on the rocks).
Although not as well known as Muquinna, the chief at Nootka Sound, Wikinanish was probably more wealthy and therefore more powerful than his neighbour. Because Clayoquot Sound was less frequently visited by European vessels than Nootka and was not at the centre of international rivalry between Britain and Spain, Wikinanish did not receive as much attention in European accounts of the northwest coast. It also seems that relations were often less cordial with Wikinanish than they were with Muquinna. There was often tension and sometimes violence between the fur-traders and the Clayoquot Indians. In 1790 an early visitor, James Colnett*, fearing that there had been an attack on his longboat, took Wikinanish’s brother hostage while he investigated the affair. The action not unnaturally incensed the Indians, who a few weeks later launched an attack on Colnett’s ship. They occasionally assaulted other trading vessels and in February 1792 were subject to retaliation when one of their villages was burnt. This uneasy relationship tended to deter European visitors despite the power and influence of Wikinanish.
Like other trading leaders, Wikinanish had achieved prominence in Indian society according to traditional patterns and then, with the coming of the white man, was able to consolidate and enhance his dominion by controlling the maritime fur trade in his area. He was able to direct the trade at Clayoquot, particularly by manipulating competition between foreign vessels, in a way that raised the price of furs and therefore increased his personal wealth. He also operated as a middleman between the Europeans and other Indian groups in his vicinity. Hopeful traders arrived at other villages only to find that Wikinanish’s agents had been there already and stripped them of furs. By preventing, with force if necessary, Indian outsiders from trading directly with the ships Wikinanish was able to add his own mark-up to the furs. The captains acknowledged his power and influence. Although undoubtedly inflated, estimates of the number of men that Wikinanish could command ran as high as four to five thousand. According to John Meares*, an early visitor to the coast, “such was the power and extensive territory of Wicananish, that it was very much in our interest to conciliate his regard and cultivate his friendship.”
As Meares’s remark suggests, Wikinanish held sway over other Nootka groups on the west coast of Vancouver Island. When Peter John Puget, who visited the coast with George Vancouver in 1792 and 1793, styled Wikinanish “the Emperor of all the coast . . . from the Streights of Fuca to the Charlottes Islands,” he was probably exaggerating. But Wikinanish had defeated a number of groups in the Clayoquot area, sometimes with a considerable loss of life. Even Muquinna, to the north, considered it necessary to maintain his good will. Muquinna’s daughter, Apānas, was betrothed to the eldest son of Wikinanish and, when relations with the Spaniards at Nootka Sound were strained to the point of violence in 1789, Muquinna sought the protection of Wikinanish. These actions did not, however, completely extinguish rivalry between the two great leaders.
PRO, Adm. 55/17. The journal and letters of Captain Charles Bishop on the north-west coast of America, in the Pacific and in New South Wales, 1794–1799, ed. and intro. Michael Roe (Cambridge, Eng., 1967). Journals of Captain James Cook (Beaglehole), I, II. Meares, Voyages. J. M. Moziño Suárez de Figueroa, Noticias de Nutka: an account of Nootka Sound in 1792, trans. and ed. I. H. Wilson (Seattle, Wash., 1970). Camille de Roquefeuil, A voyage round the world between the years 1816–1819 (London, 1823), 28, 93–99. G. Vancouver, Voyage of discovery (J. Vancouver). Voyages of ‘Columbia’ (Howay). Cook, Flood tide of empire. Philip Drucker, The northern and central Nootkan tribes (Washington, 1951). Robin Fisher, Contact and conflict: Indian-European relations in British Columbia, 1774–1890 (Vancouver, 1977).