Cathy Roland, Hawaiians in Pacific Northwest descendent, Larry Bell also on disc
Interview by Sara Kolbet
1 Disc – 77:19 – 13 Tracks
TRACK 2 – 10:03
SARA: Start, name and how far back you can trace family history.
CATHY: Okay. I’m Cathy Roland. I have Hawaiian descent going back as far as I can recall, early to mid 1800s. 1835 I believe my great-great-grandfather came to this coast. For the first time.
SARA: Explain how you got started with you family history.
CATHY: It all stemmed from my Uncle Paul. Uncle Paul was wheelchair bound very early, about a teenager he ended up in a wheelchair. So he stayed home with his mother while the rest of the family was going to school and work and that. And she entertained him by telling him stories of the past, of her father and what she could remember, because she was born here in Canada. So she never saw her homeland. But she told him the stories of the old people and the Hudson’s Bay days, the fur-trading days as best she could remember. And it was Uncle Paul who really started to dig into the background and the history and once he got it rolling of course then he decided we have to remember this. It’s an oral history. That’s the way it’s always been – they pass the stories down on to the next generation. So he sort of cornered me. I must have taken an interest in it – I don’t sort of recall. But he was always the one who was telling me stories. And he said you have to remember this, you have to remember this. And he’d tell you over and over the stories. With me it was more dates and places and names and the family tree. He wanted me to keep it straight. So if someone asked, someone new, because our family tree is more like a hedge. It starts with William Naukane and his wife whom we never knew. Didn’t know her name, she was a first-nations lady. And then she had six children. And from there, one of those daughters was my grandmother and she had fifteen children, so they had huge families. So our family tree is like a hedge. And it’s difficult, there’s a lot of married twice or three times, there’s different husbands and wives, so there’s half-brothers, half-sisters, keep it straight. So for me it was my uncle Paul who really drove it home. You have to remember this, you have to remember. My brother John, he’s got the stories. They’re not legends, they’re just stories of parties and happenings. And once he gets going he just kills me because I don’t remember those sort of things as well as I do the dates.
SARA: Explain ‘First nations’.
CATHY: The First Nations people here in Canada, I’m trying to be politically correct, because as children we were raised that we were part Indian and part Hawaiian, and my mother was European by descent. But now today politically incorrect to say Indian so I’m always struggling to say is it ‘First Nations?’ Is it ‘Aboriginal?’ What would you say? Other words for it. I’m stumbling. ‘Native American.’ That would work for you. For us it would be ‘Native Canadian.’ You’ve got to be correct these days. But when I grew up I was a Hawaiian and I was an Indian so it doesn’t bother me either way.
SARA: How did William N come over from Hawaii?
CATHY: William Naukane was the first member of our family to come over from Hawaii. Well, that’s speculation too. As far as I know he was the first member of our family to come to this coast, although there was a man before that they here on the coast they called him John Cox, but his given name was Naukana. “Aye” on the end rather than Naukan “Ey.” Two different surnames. They sound very similar. But there’s speculation that he was the father of my great-grandfather. I don’t know for sure. We’ve always tried to run that down, but never found the right documentation. So if I go back to my great-grandfather, William Naukane, he came here in 1835, I believe. On the bark Columbia. Yes, the Columbia. It was a Hudson’s Bay ship. They came with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The fur trade is what really brought the Hawaiians here to this coast. There was some exploration and stuff beforehand, but the Hawaiians have been on this coast since boy, early 1800s. But the fur trade has been around since about 1811, so it really was the fur trade that brought them here. And the Hudson’s Bay Company established themselves here in 1821, and they were really instrumental in bringing lots of Hawaiians to work in their forts and be guides, interpreters. William Naukane came in 1835 and became an interpreter with the language. They changed, they combined the Indian language, the French, a bit of Scottish, Hawaiian – they jumbled it all together and it became what they called Chinook. So it was bits and pieces of all these different languages, because all these people worked at the forts. So my great-grandfather became an interpreter and a guide. He learned the river systems and took people up and down the river for settlement purposes. And he stayed at Fort Vancouver, which is at the mouth of the Columbia River. He stayed there for four or five years and about 1840 they put him, that was the Oregon Treaty, they put in the border at the 49th parallel. And so the Hudson’s Bay Company wanted a fort on this side of the border also, so that’s when they built Fort Victoria. So Naukane moved to Fort Victoria and helped build that. I think he worked on the border also, surveying for them. He came to Victoria, worked on Fort Victoria, and he’d put in quite a few years by that time with the Hudson’s Bay Company. And at that time I guess instead of going back to the Hawaiian Islands they were offered land here. They wanted this area settled. They encouraged it and he’d started a family here so they offered him land on one of the little islands just off of Fulford Harbor. Just north of the San Juans for you. The San Juans become the Gulf Islands on this side of the border. Same island chain, we just wiggled the border through them. So he started settling on that little island, between him and another one of his compatriots, Johnny Palau. They were given a lot each on this small little island. A few years later they both bought the other two lots so the two of them ended up owning the island, and farmed it, cleared it, raised their families there, until they just got too old to be out there on their own and then they moved to Salt Spring Island, which is where my father was born, I was born, and a whole pile of the family’s all still there.
SARA: Great. What records did you find?
CATHY: The ongoing search for all of this information. If I had 24 hours a day, seven days a week to do this I would be a happy person. I can go down to the archives here, they have a lot of newspaper clippings and things like that from way back that you can look and find names, but it’s a lot of searching. You’re better off to know a date, a specific date, then you can go and look up that newspaper. When you’re just searching for a name, there’s no index so it takes a long, long time. The Hudson’s Bay Company has an archive here in Victoria which, I didn’t know about it until a short time ago – I read it in the paper. I thought oh, maybe there’s some information there. There’s a huge Hudson’s Bay Company archive in Winnipeg. I think that’s their main spot. I’ve never been there but I know there’s lots of information. I would love to know, they must have kept logs on the ships. Who came and went? What dates and stuff? But I haven’t had a chance to look at that yet. Most of my information came from my uncle Paul. And that came from his mother, it was all that handed-down information. And I worry about it probably too much sometimes, because I wonder if he got the date right.
TRACK 3 – 10:04
You talk to him one time and it was 1835 and you talk to him the next time and it’s 1836 and you think well, was it ’35 or ’36 and then he’s very sure, I said ’36! Okay. Names slightly different, like Naukane and Naukana. Oh dear. They changed a lot of the names here. I don’t know if they found them difficult to pronounce. Probably definitely difficult to spell, because some of those names are a mile long. So I don’t know if William Naukane, I don’t know if his given name was ‘William.’ That may have been given to him. There were a lot of Williams, a lot of Johns, a lot of Marys. They just picked a name and gave it to you. My cousins here, their surname was Kahana, K-A-H-A-N-A. Like easy, Ka-ha-na, how can you go wrong? But they changed it to Tahouney, I think it’s an Irish spelling, and it’s T-A-H-O-U-N-E-Y. Now, I think Kahana’s easier, but somehow or other it became Tahouney and it’s still Tahouney today. So it’s really difficult to research when the names were changed like that and they would arbitrarily give them a name. We’ll call you John; we’ll call you Mary. So information is hard to find, but you just keep scratching away at it.
CATHY: William Naukane married to a native woman here on the coast. Most of the Hudson’s Bay employees did marry native people. There was so many native people here. Most of the people coming to the forts were men. The Hudson’s Bay Company, they wanted them to settle so they encouraged them to marry the native people. It was good for relations, it was good to settle the area, so most of the Hawaiian men did marry into the native community. My great-grandfather married a native woman and we never knew her name. she died after my grandmother was born. My grandmother was the last of six children for her. And whether my grandmother never knew her or it wasn’t spoken of I don’t know, but she never mentioned that she knew her name. so it’s sort of a dead end for us. All we know is that she was a native woman. So that leaves my grandmother being half native and half Hawaiian. And she married a man, his mother was native and his father was Welsh. So they got married and had their families. All this interaction with the native community. And that’s solely probably because they were the largest group of people here. It just makes sense. Anybody else was brought in as I said by the fur trade, so they were few and far between.
SARA: What did they think about working for HBC?
CATHY: The Hawaiians by all accounts were very well treated by the British who were running the Hudson’s Bay Company at the time. They seemed to really like the Hawaiian people. They were happy, easy-going, easy to get along with. So they were treated so well that it was not a problem for them to be here and want to stay. Their homeland in Hawaii was in a bit of upheaval. King Kamehameha had united their islands in the early 1800s. so that was a big change for those that were leaving to come here. Did they want to go back to that? What was happening back home? Because they were here for years at a time. Hudson’s Bay paid them. They worked, they were paid. They were allowed to vote long before a lot of the other aboriginal people here. There was no need for them to go back. Once they got settled here and realized here with the seasons just being able to grow fruit and vegetables. My grandfather was just taken with cherry trees. He planted cherry trees everywhere he went. I guess you just don’t grow cherry trees in Hawaii. They grow pineapples so I think the Hawaiians, once they settled here, really enjoyed being here. They loved the seasons. They loved the seafood. The tides. You don’t have a tide in Hawaii. You don’t go digging clams in Hawaii. Here you do. So I think the Hawaiians really took to this area and it was very easy for them to stay and want to be here.
SARA: Have you been to Hawaii?
CATHY: In it was 1970. in 1970 my Uncle Paul made his first trip back to Hawaii. First time ever. And it was sort of a fluke happening. A reporter from the Honolulu Star Advertiser, I believe her name was Mary Cook, was up here with I believe it was a school group of children. They were entertainers. They came and danced the hula, sang some of their Hawaiian songs. So they were here in BC just to entertain and show people what their language and customs were about. So she came along with that group to report the story when they got home. They were offered a guide, his name was Pat Crofton, to get them around BC, to get them to ferries on time and do their hotels, and on the trip between Vancouver, from Vancouver side to Victoria, he just mentioned in passing, he threw his arm out over the gulf side and said there are a lot of Hawaiians who live over there. And so reporter that she was, ooh, really? So she, the following day she made a trip over to Salt Spring, had no idea what to look for, arrived at the village at Fulford Harbor. It’s the basic one-store village where he’s got the gas pump out front and you can get your stamps, your groceries, everything in one store. Walked in and said I was told that there was Hawaiians living here on the island. And the old guy said, that would be the Rolands. And he gave her direction, she drove down to the house. She saw my dad and my uncle and said wow, you people look more Hawaiian than half of the Hawaiians I see at home. So she did an interview with them and took the story back home and ran it in the paper and everybody was just enthralled with these lost Hawaiians in the north for so many years. So the Honolulu Star Advertiser got together and paid for a trip for them. Bring these people home, basically. So it was real interesting. He looked into that, he and one of his sisters and my oldest brother John went down in 1970 and were treated quite royally. They really enjoyed it, it was quite a trip for them. Over 350 people with the last name Naukane showed up at the airport looking for their lost family. And they all had a flower lei and I guess their custom – every single one had to go on. So they’d pile them on until they were out of sight, take them off and set them aside, pile on the next ones. Met all these people and then started to wade through to see if any of the stories matched up, any of the names matched up, to try and find the family that might be connected to us. And we did, we made a connection with Mary and Nathan and Billy Brown and we spent years, well, the last few years, up to the last few years going down to visit them. I went with my mother and father in ’72 I believe for the first time and met ‘the family’ and since then I’ve been back many, many times. I went a lot in the ‘80s. I would go down twice a year or so I would go down. I met some friends down there, they were entertainers, singers in Waikiki. And I’d go down and stay with them and go down and sing with them at the Hilton Hawaiian Village at Benehana’s of Tokyo, with a big water wheel out front. It was a little Japanese restaurant, but they all have their little lounge and happy hour, four to seven, happy three hours.
TRACK 4 – 10:04
So every day between four and seven my pals would go down there and they’d sing Hawaiian songs and they’d dance the odd hula and if they had guests that could sing, whether they’d be from Australia or Canada or whatever, they’d get them up there and you’d sing your stuff and it was a good fun time, I did that for years.
SARA: Where was your cultural heritage while you were growing up?
CATHY: We were born and raised on Salt Spring Island. That’s where my great-grandfather ended up after raising his family on Portland. He moved as an old man to Salt Spring with his youngest daughter who was my grandmother. And all of her children were born and raised on Salt Spring. We were all born and raised on Salt Spring. Being part Indian we were not raised on reserve at all. We were raised in the regular community, attended the local schools. So I lost a lot of the old customs and heritage and that end of things. Like now I go into the native communities and I hear their stories and I sort of know them but I don’t. I missed all that. I missed the elders and their knowledge. Which is sad. But it’s what is, I can learn it now. We had my grandmother. She knew more about her Hawaiian roots because she never knew her mother.
SARA: Hawaiian ancestors.
CATHY: I think when we returned to Hawaii I always thought our upbringing was unremarkable, normal. Nothing different. We had certain words that would pop out now and then and people would look at you and go what are you talking about. Like pig in Hawaiian is pua’a. And if you’ve ever had pork and beans, there’s that little bit of fat floating around in there. Well, to us that was pua’a skin. And it just was normal to us. You talk to other people and they go, what are you talking about? So we had certain words, Hawaiian words that popped out. We never spoke the language growing up, my grandmother never spoke it. I think it wouldn’t be understood in the community so why? She only spoke English. But the few words that did drift down were sort of slang and we got a lot of them wrong. We thought pokai was dog and when we got to Hawaii we found that that meant cat. So we had a lot of dogs named ‘cat’ in those days. But the luau experience, we didn’t call it a luau and we didn’t know that’s what we were doing until we went to Hawaii and went oh yeah. Every bit of food on the table was salmon and beef and ham and pork and chicken. Everything went on the table. Every vegetable you had in the larder and then that was just the food end of it. The party always went all weekend. Night and day. They sang and danced, they took shifts. You’d go to sleep and wake up and the party is still raging on. I’m sure a lot of people do that, it’s not a custom only to Hawaii, but I remember my uncles and my aunts, the songs they sang were ‘Beyond the Reef’ and ‘Hawaii Calls.’ So they weren’t the popular songs of the day. It was a strange connection to make after going back to Hawaii and realizing the parallels that happened. My uncles and aunts all sang. I remember their voices so clearly. And it seemed more so with them than with anybody else. They were always ready to sing, play a guitar if they could. We didn’t dance the hula, the hula was never brought to us. My grandmother being born here, she never knew it. When I went back to Hawaii I learned a few hulas. I’m not very good at it.
SARA: Could you sing a song?
CATHY: The songs, I never learned to speak the language. I can sort of read it phonetically. It’s like French. You know some words in French just because you’ve heard them. So I can sing it phonetically, but I don’t…well, I do understand more now, that’s just by repetition. A lot of the songs are about flowers – pu’a is flower. Pu’a Olena is one of the songs I’ve always liked because the melody is so pretty.
SINGSARA: Pua olena. Pua moi vale. Y kalehele oh ai day.
Oh, I don’t remember the words. If I have it and I’m reading it, I can sing it. But without the words I’m sort of lost.
SARA: Any more stories your uncle would tell?
CATHY: I wish my brother were here to tell some of the stories because as I said I was really inundated with the dates. The names to protect the innocent and my brother has these stories that are incredible. More so stories about my dad and his brothers and their antics which is hardly the old time stuff. Dynamiting the fish and blowing all the caulking out of the boat so it would sink and stuff.
SARA: Dynamiting fish?
CATHY: I was never a witness to that but I heard that story once where they took grandpa’s boat and they weren’t supposed to of course, teenagers, and you light a stick of dynamite, you drop it in the water, and when it goes kaboom it’s the concussion that kills the fish and they float to the surface and you pick them up. I never saw this, I don’t know if it works but I’ve heard. But they lit the stick of dynamite and instead of throwing it he dropped it in the water off of the funnel of the boat. So they tried to row really quickly and of course they broke an oar or popped it out of the oar lock so they were stuck close to this and when it blew up it’s an old clinker-built boat, it blew all of the caulking out of the boat and it just sunk.
SARA: How have your researches changed you? Joining of cultures?
CATHY: There are so many Hawaiians on this coast. People of Hawaiian descent, not Hawaiian anymore, it’s that melting pot syndrome that’s happened. There are people that don’t even realize they’re of Hawaiian descent. In a lot of ways in the olden days, I have an uncle who lives in Duncan and he doesn’t deny his Hawaiian roots but to him he’s more Indian than Hawaiian. He married a Kauachan native woman and he knows that community, he knows the customs, so his Hawaiian side disappeared on him. And that’s not uncommon. There’s a lot of people I talk to and they have no idea they’re of Hawaiian descent until you speak to them a bit and mention some names and they say oh, I had an uncle by that name or a grandfather. You say well, they were Hawaiians. Oh, well no one told me. So with the fur trade people at one time in Fort Vancouver the population of the fort was probably 50% Hawaiian. So they were the largest group of people other than the Indian people, the indigenous people. So there was a lot of Hawaiians on this coast and there’s still a lot of descent here. I had a man who came up from Ferndale Washington. He was looking for his Indian roots. He was looking for the Wilson family. He found my cousin Pauline, who is my cousin because she’s married to my cousin. He spoke with her about the Wilsons and that’s all the Indian roots. And then he pulled out an old postcard that was written to his great-uncle or something from Mrs. P. Roland. And he said do you know who this is? And my cousin, her husband, looked out it and said oh, that’s my grandmother. So he turned on that and here’s this Hawaiian connection he never knew was to his family. So it’s interesting.
TRACK 6 – 0:36
You never know and if you can’t get out there and scratch around and look, to me it’s just fascinating to see where these people came from, what they did. As I say, if I had twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to do this I’d be a happy person but unfortunately it falls by the wayside for months sometimes years until I drag it out and look at pictures and go man, I’ve got to find out who that is. It’s difficult.
SARA: Anything else to add?
TRACK 6 – 1:43