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Unfortunately, such information is sparse. About all that can be said for certain is that both Colnett and Taylor were familiar with some of the exploration literature – Dampier and Anson, as well as Cook. 167 Even if there are doubts about Colnett’s literary preparations in 1786, he had the benefit of personal experience of Cook – as a graduate of the second expedition. ”168 One of the midshipmen, John Elliot, recorded some comments on the training he received. Young gentlemen learned the basics required to become “good Sailors, as well as good Officers” – the essential naval skills of command and navigation, including observing, surveying, and drawing.

These annual rounds reflected seasonal availability and, in most cases, villages were occupied for only part of the year. To some extent, the perceptions of early European visitors were shaped by the timing of their visits – spring to fall – when indigenous populations, in most cases, were widely dispersed. Resource sites, with a few exceptions, were not common property but were owned by specific social groups. Indeed, as Cook had sensed at Nootka Sound in 1778, there were well-developed concepts of ownership and control that governed access to land and resources operating throughout the coast.

Once begun, however, information, rumour, artifacts, and diseases spread ahead of physical encounters. In 1786, the contact process was well underway among some Nuu-chah-nulth and Tlingit; for others, such as the Tsimshian, direct encounters lay in the future. Whatever Natives and non-Natives brought to their meetings, the contact process was no simple two-sided encounter. Rather, it involved a complex intersection of class, status, gender, and ethnicity – mostly with impoverished means of communications.

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