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Canada honors Tecumseh, James Cook

Top: Reverse of gold $100 celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Shawnee warrior Tecumseh. Bottom: selectively gold-plated reverse of the silver dollar proof that marks the 240th anniversary of the arrival of Captain Cook at Nootka Sound. (Images courtesy RCM)

The Royal Canadian Mint is presently celebrating two historic anniversaries.

March marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Native American Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, a.k.a. Chief Shooting Star, described as “one of the most sophisticated and celebrated Indian leaders in all history.”

The same month is the 240th anniversary of the landing of Captain James Cook on Bligh Island in the inlet he called “King George’s Sound.” Today, we know it as Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.

For Tecumseh, the mint has produced a single 27 mm, 12 g, 0.583 fine gold proof $100. The reverse design by Bonnie Ross presents a three-quarter profile of the chief in traditional Shawnee clothing with his medal of King George III around his neck. The background consists of a map of Upper Canada circa 1813. It serves to emphasize Tecumseh’s important role as Canada’s ally during the War of 1812. The area above his right shoulder includes the site of the Battle of the Thames where he was slain in 1813. Mintage is 1,500.

Cook’s arrival at the summer home of the Nuu-chah-nulth people is recalled on a 36.07 mm, 23.17 g, .9999 fine silver proof dollar. It has a mintage of 20,000. The same coin is part of a 2018 fine silver proof set of Canadian coins. In this instance, it is selectively gold plated. Set mintage is 15,000.

The reverse design by John Horton shows Cook’s arrival at Nootka Sound in 1778. Mountains and the timbered headland of Bligh Island provide a backdrop for a three-quarter profile of the uncompromising Royal Naval captain. Behind Cook’s left shoulder is HMS Discovery, with HMS Resolution moored a short distance away. A Nuu-chah-nulth canoe approaches the Resolution to extend a greeting.

Cook recorded what he took to be the native name of the inlet as “Nutka,” or “Nootka,” but he might have misunderstood what he was told. It is likely he was being informed that he was on an island that he might sail around.

Cook was not the first European to land in the sound. That distinction went to the Spanish. But Cook’s visit did set in train a series of events that would eventually see both Spain and England establish trading settlements along the Pacific coast.


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• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.

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