Native princess part of Sooke's history.

Owechemis: was a Nitinat Princess

Sooke historian Elida Peers writes about Sooke and area and it's fascinating history

A princess, sacrificed to make peace between tribes – this is one tale explaining how Owechemis, or “Kitty” from the Nitinat People, came to be the wife of Aaron Denton White, who had arrived here and settled on Section 84 at the far reach of Sooke Basin in 1877.

The union of the Britisher and a First Nations princess left a legacy of hundreds of descendants in our region and well beyond. It was Ida Jones, wife of Chief Queesto of the Pacheedaht people of Port Renfrew who gave us this account many years ago.

She said “…. There was a war between Indians of different tribes .…  a long time ago, Kitty’s father, the chief, he wanted to stop the war, he wanted to save the people of his village so he gave his daughter away ….. A very young girl, maybe 13 or 14, he held her up and showed her, a peace offering …… to stop the war …”

While we’re not sure of all details of the path that led her to Aaron Denton White, but it seems she met him at Whidby Island and records show they were “churched” a few years later. Ministry of Public Works records show that in 1883 he had a contract to “build a sleigh road between the Vine property and Sooke” – this would be East Sooke Road.

Seen in the photo, at left of her father was Mary White (b 1883) who married Joseph Poirier Jr, and Ida (b 1879) on the right, who married George Woodruff.  At front are Jack White (b 1885) who married Fanny Dyer; Alice (b 1890) who married James Poirier; and on the right of Owechemis, was Abba (b 1881) who married Henry Hutcheson.

Among our well-known citizens of today, descended from Mary White and Joseph Poirier are Velma Cook Jessiman, Walter Cook, Norman Goudie, Earl Goudie; descendants of Alice White and James Poirier include Dick Poirier of Jordan River.  Descendants of Ida White and George Woodruff include Pauline Laberge Hamilton.  Abba White and Henry Hutcheson had only one child, Hazel, who married Byron Parman. Their children include Audrey Goudie, Claudette West and Galen Parman. Hundreds of great great grandchildren carry on the remarkable legacy of this princess/pioneer union.

After Owechemis was widowed, she moved to a cottage surrounded by a garden and fruit trees at the far end of Grant Road. At that time Moss Cottage stood nearby on its original site where the Baptist Church is now, with Matilda Gordon as its chatelaine. The two women were friends, and often shared a neighbourly cup of tea.  Naturally Owechemis’s ears had been pierced as a child, and we’re told that when she was feeling particularly buoyant, she would pick a bloom from her garden and wear it in her ear.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum