Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park Herring salteries and Peter Kakua the Kanaka

Herring salteries

In the early 20th century, the influence of the Oriental, the majority being Japanese, and their salteries off the coast of Nanaimo was already well established. The major buyers for the salted herring and salmon were from Japan, Hong Kong, and China. Herring season went from December to February every year, but in the 1920s, the season was extended to include September, November, and October. The salmon season began in July and went until mid-August, which worked out well for the saltery owners because they could use the same facilities for both herring and salmon seeing as they could only be caught at different times of the year.

In order to catch the herring, the Japanese had a way of fishing called seining. Seining involved the use of two identical sister ships, one strengthened on the port side and the other on the starboard. They would then surround the school of herring with a net and then close it up.

On July 12, 1912, four of the salteries on Newcastle Island burnt down, totalling over $21,000 worth of damage. The salteries were owned by Mr. Oburi, Mr. Mase, Mr. Shinobu, and Mr. Makino, all of whom were issei (first generation Japanese-Canadians). The salteries were quickly rebuilt, but the cause of the fires was unknown and arson was suspected.

In 1918, T. Matsuyama and the Ode brothers got together and started the Nanaimo Shipyards Limited. Nanaimo Shipyards Limited was a shipbuilding and repair shop located on Newcastle Island. The company gained popularity and was growing rapidly. In 1939, the main shed was 24 by 24 ft (7.3 by 7.3 m) and by 1941, the company owned 16 boars and 4.18 acres (17,000 m2) of the island. All this was taken from them in 1941, at the start of World War II, along with Mr. Tanaka’s and Mr. Kasho’s salteries, when the Japanese-Canadians were sent to the Interior of British Columbia to be placed in internment camps.

Newcastle Island looking towards the Georgia Strait/Salish sea, with lower mainland coastal mountains in the background

Peter Kakua the Kanaka

Kanakas, who were Hawaiian immigrant laborers, worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company on a term-basis and once their term was completed they were free to go wherever they pleased. Many returned home to Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands), but many also stayed in British Columbia. Peter Kakua was just one of the many who settled down, got married, and had children in B.C.

Peter Kakua started working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1853 and served in Fort Victoria under Governor James Douglas. After he left his position in the HBC, Peter moved to Nanaimo where he met and married his wife, Que-en, also known as Mary, who was of aboriginal descent. They had a daughter in 1868.

On December 7, 1868, Peter Kakua pleaded guilty to murder. He confessed that Que-en had decided to leave him and take their daughter, so he drowned his sorrow in booze and returned home on the night of December 3 to find her and her family, her mother Sqush-e-lek and her father Shil-at-ti-nord, packing her belongings. He then left the house again and when he returned at two in the morning, he found his father-in-law in bed with Que-en. In a fit of rage, Peter Kakua flailed around the house with an axe, killing everyone including his daughter. Realising what he had done, he went to see his friend Stephany. Peter told Stephany what he had done and said that he should escape to the mainland. Stephany, who was also drunk, did not want to go that far, so they rowed a boat over to what is now Kanaka Bay on Newcastle Island.

There he was found on December 4. He attempted to escape but because of how drunk he was, he tripped and was easily captured. He again tried to escape custody on the boat ride back to Nanaimo when he tried to jump out of the boat and flip it, but he was hit by a paddle and recaptured.

Peter was tried by Joseph Needham, “the hanging judge”, on February 10, 1869. The trial concluded on February 10 with the sentence “Peter Kakua we find you guilty as charged of four counts of murder and sentence you to be hanged by the neck until dead”. He was hanged on Friday, March 10, 1869, at Gallows Point on Protection Island, right across the Gap from Newcastle. His body was buried in an unmarked grave near Kanaka Bay because the Native people did not want his body in their burial sites and the Europeans did not want it in their cemeteries.

On October 4, 1899, a body was dug up close to Kanaka Bay and it is believed to be Peter Kakua’s. Still not having an appropriate place for his interment, they reburied him nearby.

Source From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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