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Nootka Sound (Friendly Cove) James Cook

March 29, 2012 by staff 

Nootka Sound (Friendly Cove) James Cook, A ceremonial yew-wood club has come home to British Columbia, more than two centuries after it was carved by a Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation artisan and then given to Capt. James Cook in 1778.

Philanthropist Michael Audain, 74, said he “can now relax,” knowing the $1.2-million artifact of “global historical and cultural significance,” is no longer in his locked office drawer but at the University of B.C.’s Museum of Anthropology.

At a Tuesday morning ceremony attended by Mowachacht-Muchalaht elder Margarita James, the club was accepted by the MOA, where it will be displayed.

“It’s very important for young First Nations people to see works of great artistry, created in years gone by, in this case before European contact and before metal tools were in use,” said Audain.

Audain said his acquisition and donation of the club combined “two of my lifelong interests, the life of explorer Capt. James Cook, and the work of the original First Nations people of the West Coast.”

Carved from yew in the shape of a hand holding a sphere, the club likely was both ceremonial and functional and an indicator of its owner’s high rank.

Cook was an officer in the British Royal Navy, who achieved the first European contact with the Hawaiian islands, eastern Australia, and New Zealand. He was killed in Hawaii in 1779.

The ceremonial club came with an excellent “provenance” or list of ownership, said Audain. Originally held by Cook’s widow, Elizabeth, the artifact was owned by a family and two museums in England, then came to New York in 1967.

The club became part of the estimated $40-million-U.S. estate of collector George Terasaki, who amassed artifacts from Tlingit, Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Tsimshian, Haisla, Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, all in B.C.

Audain purchased the club from Terasaki’s estate through New York dealer Donald Ellis.

James, president of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, spoke on behalf of hereditary chiefs Yahua or Michael Maquinna of Mowachaht and Muchalaht hereditary chief Norman George.

The two communities, among 15 that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, “greeted and hosted” Cook at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound in 1778, noted James.

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