The first official European contact with aboriginal peoples arrived with Captain James Cook’s third expedition along with his loyal crew, assisted by William Bligh, master of the Revolution, and George Vancouver, midshipman on the Discovery in 1778. The crew on board the HMS Resolution and the HMS Discovery were among the first to step on land and interact with the Mowachat/Muchalahat peoples. Although there were previous expeditions spearheaded by Spanish explorers in the area years before, no one physically stepped on land or took formal possession.
The original discovery of the area was a royal kept secret. When the British arrived, they were greeted by the Mowachat/Muchalahat peoples, Chief Maquinna told the foreigners, “itchme nutka, itchme nutka”, which meant ‘go around’ . Captain Cook misunderstood and thought they were communicating the name of the area, which gave birth to the name Nootka Sound. Captain Cook’s crew anchored at Friendly Cove near Nootka Island and moved towards Bligh Island, to claim the land for the British.