Queesto of the Pacheedaht

Elida Peers writes about the history and happenings in the Sooke area

“Children of the Seafoam” is how hereditary Chief Queesto (Charles Jones in the language of the newcomers) referred to his people who lived along the mouth of the river we call the San Juan today.  In early summer the salmonberries ripening along the banks of the San Juan heralded the birthday of one of Canada’s finest Native sons.

Queesto was born into a family with great pride in its ancestry and rituals, in a time which saw the customs and commerce of the incoming Europeans begin to change their lives forever.

In 1900, his father was chief, and it was in that year that Charles Jones went out sealing in the Bering Sea with the rest of the sealing fleet from Victoria.  Father and son were aboard the schooner Sausalas, as was Andrew Lazzar of the T’Sou-kes, brother-in-law to Charles Jones.

Small boats took off from the mother ship; his father was the hunter, while Charles was steersman in the stern.  For the two month season of hunting seals, Queesto recalled when he spoke with us in the 1970s, only spears were used, as rifles were prohibited. He recalled that his father and other hunters would hunt seals by canoe in the strait off Cape Flattery as well. Heading off to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Victoria with their catch in 40-foot canoes, they traded the pelts for blankets and other goods.

While records weren’t available to confirm his birth, the family believed Charles Jones came into the world in 1876. So well-versed in the traditions of the Pacheedaht, so eloquent in his conversations, in time Charles Jones became a sought-after figure far and wide in the immigrant world that strove to record the earlier life of his people.

While his family traditions were foremost, he moved forward easily into the new century, owning a seine boat, and was so versatile that he became well-paid in the logging industry as well. He worked as a brakeman on a logging railway at Jordan River in 1908, and later as a boom man for Milligans in Shirley.

This photo shows Queesto, Hereditary Chief Charles Jones, in 1982 at the Cultural Hall on T’Sou-ke Reserve No. 1 where he was celebrating his 106th birthday. Though wheel-chair bound, he beat the drum while his wife Ida (in white dress) and his son Chuck Jones kept time, as his legion of relatives and friends joined in paying tribute to this legendary figure.

In 1990, when family accounts showed him to be in his 114th year, Queesto passed on.

 

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum