Carey Myers – A First Nations Salmon Fisherman with Hawaiian Roots

by Ross Dobson 2014

Carey Joseph Myers

Carey Myers (Photograph from the Ross Dobson collection)

Carey Joseph Myers, my uncle by marriage, was first and foremost a successful commercial salmon fisherman on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. He was born on the November 21, 1915 in Sargent‘s Pass, on Knight Inlet, B.C. Family oral tradition relates his birth as having occurred on a floating log fish camp. His umbilical ties with the commercial fishing industry in British Columbia waters continued throughout his rich and adventuresome life, as he fished for over 60 years from about 1930 until 1990. He skippered and had various roles mostly with salmon seiners, a few gillnetters, and for a period as a troller or long–liner.

Perhaps Carey‘s love of the ocean goes back to his ancestors, which include First Nations peoples in the Alert Bay area, Hawaiians and Norwegians. Carey‘s father, George Nergaard Myers, was born in Norway, and immigrated to Canada as a young man, working on the Canadian prairies before ending up at Alert Bay BC where he died in 1954. His mother was Marian Jane Kamano, of the Alert Bay area, and George Kamano‘s granddaughter. She was born in 1891 at Yittise BC and died in 1970 at Alert Bay BC.

Carey’s great grandfather was George Michael Kamano, originally called Kahoomana. He was born in 1835 in the Kingdom of Hawaii, (the Sandwich Islands). Kamano, beginning in 1854, worked for 15 years at the Hudsons Bay Company’s Fort Rupert trading post. Being quite religious, he aligned himself with the Oblate missionaries and was married by them on December 25, 1866 to Pauline Claroara, daughter of Etitla, of the village of Tsatsis’nukwami, Da’naxda’xw (formerly New Vancouver), on Harbledown Island, near the entrance to Knight Inlet.

The eldest son of Okerry/Okeli Cahoomana and of Nainema of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), fourteen year old Kamano most likely joined the Hudson‘s Bay Company from Oahu, Hawaii in 1854. The Hudson‘s Bay Company (HBC) had an active trading post in Hawaii. Family oral tradition however persists that he was ‘shanghaied’ in Oahu and jumped ship in Victoria (or was ship wrecked in a whaling ship), only to be smuggled by natives to Fort Rupert. Whatever method he used to get there, he worked at Fort Rupert for the next fifteen years (until 1869) as a labourer. At the Oblate Mission which was established in 1863, he may have learned to write as, at one time, he was left in charge of the Fort Rupert Post in the absence of the Chief Trader. In 1869 George Kamano retired from the HBC and followed St. Michel’s Mission which, by that time, had moved from the Fort Rupert site to New Vancouver, on Harbledown Island. At his new home he worked at, and was periodically left in charge of, the Mission, which eventually closed down in 1874. The Oblate priest Father Foquet explained how "we are leaving all the affairs of the mission in the care of Kamano."

Throughout his life, George Kamano commanded a wide social respect. In McKenney‘s Pacific Coast Directory (for 1883–1884) published in San Francisco, he was listed as being an important man in the vicinity of Alert Bay. While he preferred the solitude of his working environment, his more outgoing wife held potlatches throughout the area, some lasting for as long as a week. In his later years, after the death of his wife, he lived with his daughter Lillian at Alert Bay and finally died of a pneumonia. He was buried on May 4, 1918 behind the Anglican church at Alert Bay along with many other members of his family.

Kamano had one wife, Pauline Clahoaro, and a dozen children. On December 25, 1866 at Fort Rupert, George Kamano formalized his marriage to Pauline Clahoara (c.1845–c.1893) of the Kwakiutl Tenaktak/Taneukteuch/Tanakteuk band (Knight Inlet/Harbledown Island). Kamano Island of the Karlukwees Indian Reserve, near Harbledown Island, is named after George Kamano.

Carey Myers’ other First Nations heritage is linked to the arrival of Louis Otiohkori, an Iroquois hired from Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), near Montreal. After making his way across the continent, he went to work in Nanaimo and then in Fort Rupert in 1850 as a coal miner and hunter. He continued in Fort Rupert until 1853 when he moved back to Nanaimo to work as a labourer and hunter until 1858. He was noted at Fort Nanaimo, "Where he, a crack shot and excellent hunter, hunted venison when it was required at the store." It was again noted in Nanaimo that, "Louis Oteokorie lived in the next house. He was a full bred Iroquois. Louis Oteokorie was an elderly man of a quiet, tractable disposition, though of bulky, strong frame. He was a woodsman, and a famous hunter, one of the sharpest of sharpshooters. It was made part of his duty, in the services of the Hudson’s Bay Company, to go deer–stalking when venison was needed at the store." Louis Otiohkori worked in the Hudson’s Bay Company Western department, and in Fort Simpson on and off from 1860 to 1863, when he returned to Fort Rupert.

It was at Fort Rupert that he married the sister of the Kwagiulth Chief Mellas, (M–las), and together they had several children. One of them, Emma, married George Blenkinsop, the former Factor of the HBC at Fort Rupert. Emma and George were formally married in Victoria on August 18, 1884. When George Blenkinsop died, Emma married Thomas Nowel. Another of Louis‘ children, Alexsis, became the chief at Fort Rupert in the 1910s, an unusual situation with Alexsis being half Iroquois and half Kwagiulth. What may explain this situation was that the Kwagiulth nation was semi-matriarchal. Quite possibly, when Chief Mellas died, having no male heirs, the chieftainship passed to the eldest son of the eldest sister.

Mr. and Mrs. Carey Myers

A young Carey Joseph Myers with his mother Marian Kamano (Photo from the Dobson Family collection.)

Carey was quietly proud of his heritage and was tied to his many relatives along the coast. He was always pointing out other fisherman announcing, "there is my cousin so–and–so" wherever we went. It seemed that we were never far away from his relatives in the fishing industry.

In the summer of 1962 I had the opportunity work with Carey (my uncle by marriage) as the deckhand and cook on his two–man troller. I was studying biology at the University of British Columbia and this looked like a good way to earn the money I needed to pay for the following year. I took a bus to Port Alberni and then took the passenger freighter Lady Rose to Ucluelet, as the road across Vancouver Island was still primarily only for logging trucks.

I joined Carey and his 38 foot salmon troller Spring Mist at the Ucluelet docks and was tasked with purchasing the provisions for a two–week stint at sea. He sent me to the store to buy groceries which I carried back to the boat. We cast off and put to sea near the end of the day. I cooked supper, which included what I thought he might enjoy – frozen fish sticks. Of course I did not understand that looking at fish all day he might have enjoyed a chop or a some other dish. He turned the boat around to head back into port so I could purchase something worth eating. It was the first of many practical lessons in my education, including marine traditions such as my rookie mistake of opening a can of peas with the label upside down; a bad omen of a sinking ship which caused a rare frown of concern from Carey.

I quickly picked up the skills needed as a fisherman from him. We fished six lines (with lead cannon ball weights). Another early learning experience was when I was reaching over the gunnel to gaff a very large Spring salmon, I whacked it a little too forcefully and watched the fish (fish = income) swim away from the lightly embedded fishhook. After cleaning and icing our catch, we generally sold the Spring and coho salmon directly to the canneries or to buyers in the fishing ports. Like many trollers he disliked the influence and control of the big fishing companies and would try to sell to co–ops or small buyers. I recall that fuel, repairs and supplies were generally controlled by the big companies who jacked up prices and kept fish buying prices low.

Our most harrowing experience that summer was being caught in a huge following sea off the Brooks Peninsula area. The wind from the northwest pushed the waves into huge swells and we could not turn the boat towards port for fear of foundering. We had our lines in the water and the stabilizers down but were forced to keep steaming as there was no shelter. I tended to get a bit seasick in those conditions so I was put on the wheel while Carey worked the deck (well at the stern). Another close call involved cruising slowly in dense fog in the Strait of Juan De Fuca, with me on the bow using a pathetic hand held air horn while trying to locate a large freighter; and luckily the fog lifted just before we crossed paths.

That summer I saw the British Columbia west coast thoroughly and through the eyes of a man who had an infinite link to its heritage and a deep respect for the sea. Although my short commercial fishing experience with Carey is now over 50 years ago, the memories from then are still very vivid and enjoyable. From riding huge waves off Rose Spit in Hecate Strait, to magical overnight moorings in Sea Otter Cove at Cape Scott, to having puffins and albatross flying alongside our boat and dolphins playing beside us, to finding a large prehistoric looking Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) drifting along with its large dorsal fin flapping slowly, the richness of BC’s marine life and history was very striking.

Carey married my aunt, Norma Dobson (1919–1988), in 1943. They had two children: Carey Albert (Bert) Myers who also carried on some family fishing tradition, such as working on gillnetters and seiners (1959–1969). He also fished for tuna off South America 1995–1996. Their second child was Arthur Evans, who joined the family at age 10 as a Foster child. In 1990 at age 75 Carey received his legal Indian Status, inherited through his mother Marian Kamano of Alert Bay. His status was for the Kwakiutl–Tanneukteuk Tribe (Alert Bay area). Carey loved a good cup of coffee and watching hockey. He died January 17th, 1991 in Tsawwassen, B.C. at the age of 76.

Author Acknowledgements: A number of people have researched British Columbia’s links between Hawaiian and First Nations heritage connections, including extensive original research and documentation by my late cousin Albert ‘Bert’ Carey Myers (1945–2012), Carey Joseph Myers’ son. Much of the above Hawaiian and First Nations family history information is now in the public realm, such as on etc.

To quote from this article please cite:

Dobson, Ross (2014) Carey Myers – A First Nations Salmon Fisherman with Hawaiian Roots. 2014.

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