Who was 'Lasqueti', the namesake of our Island?

As a relative newcomer resident to Lasqueti Island (since 2011), I became curious about the history of the 'name' given to the island by twenty-three year old Jose Maria Narvaez, Captain of the Saturnina of the Spanish navy in 1791. There's a concrete monument to 'Lasqueti' in the Squitty Bay Park  that was installed in 1991 by memebers of the community. What follows are responses to my query to the Lasqueti Island list serve and some subsequent research (mainly Wikipedia). My hope is to inform the Lasqueti Community Association 'Reconciliation project' that recognizes the Coast Salish name and history of the island as Xew’etay (Yew Tree). 

So who was Lasqueti? In short …

  • He was a Basque from Cadiz Spain (1754 -1835), Commander of the Santa Casilda, Viceroy of New Spain, Captain General of the Spanish Navy, Ambassador to Britian, and Captain General to Florida and Cuba and …in other words a Spanish Colonialist or Conquistadores.  (Seems to be a very accomplished and powerful fellow).
  • He never set foot on the island
  • His name sounds a lot like the Coast Salish name for the Island Xew’etay (Yew Tree) and ...
  • A (tenuous) link to Santa Casilda and the Miracle of Roses!

From Peter Allen:  Lasqueti was a member of the King's Guard of Spain. Oddly Narvaez didn't know Lasqueti. Nor did he name the island that he found with the name of Lasqueti. Narvaez called the island Texada, and later Quadra, who was in charge of the expedition and the mapmaking, gave the name Texada to the larger island and in honour of his friend, named the little island Lasqueti. Lasqueti himself never saw the island.

It is apparent, and has been for the forty years that I've been looking at Lasqueti's history, that there is nothing Spanish about the island other than Narvaez's tour up the Straits and back around Texada... Gough has the chart of Narvaez's in his book (dates and no record of landings). Also, following from the charts, it becomes easier to discount other stories of landings as well as the naming of Spanish Cave. Spanish cave is on our property, so that is where my research began, back in 1978. The oldest reference that I have found for that name comes from a personal conversation referring to a teacher at one of the island's schools who told a story about gold being buried in the cave by the Spanish... The story looks to be from around ww2 or possibly as early as ww1. I haven't found any physical history in the cave of any use prior to the 1950's. There are some barely readable inscriptions in one wall, and those should probably be scanned and enhanced, as well as dated.

My work with fur trade studies and first nations trade routes shows huge variance in naming, to as late as the 1840's, for both places and people. My guess is that this will only be solved in some well lit archive in Madrid or Cadiz, after a few weeks of searching microfilmed, hand written records. The Cadiz reference does point to a maritime affiliation, as it was a major port at the time.  

From Lawrence:  As a youngster for some reason I didn’t buy the Spanish naval officer story, I have no idea why. I always meant to research it. But I was always doubtful for some reason. Then I found out what the Native name for Lasqueti was and I immediately went “Aha!” I think it is more likely from a settler version of the pronunciation… the sound of the word, from a settler’s ear Xew’etay and Lasqueti sound so similar. (As in three syllables)

From Annette: This site is about the career of Juan José Ruiz de Apodaca y Eliza Gastón de Iriarte López de Letona y Lasqueti (February 3, 1754, Cadiz, Spain—January 11, 1835, Madrid, Spain) who was a Spanish Basque naval officer and viceroy of New Spain from September 20, 1816 to July 5, 1821, during Mexico's War of Independence.

Spanish names include the name of the mother, and the mother of Juan Jose Ruiz de Apocada is Eusebia María de Eliza y Lasqueti (*Cádiz 1724). The dates fit the timeline if Lasqueti Island was named in 1791 (though some accounts state that Texada originally had Lasqueti's name)...so my guess is that this is our guy and that his very long name was shortened to Juan Maria Lasqueti (after his mom).

He never set foot on Lasqueti Island; in fact, he never explored this region or even sailed past it. Explorer and naval officer, Jose Maria Navarez, who named the island after Senor Lasqueti came to this area on an expedition to take possession of Nootka Sound. I'm not sure if Navarez ever landed on the island either...but the naming of places after Spanish political and military figures would've been part of Spain's attempt to wrench political and economic control away from Indigenous inhabitants as well as the English and Americans, and establish Spanish sovereignty in this area (which would've been lucrative and of strategic importance if it turned to be the entrance to the Northwest Passage).

From Gordon Scott:  A reference from the naval history of Spain: The Menorca expedition O. B. 1781: Ships that left Cádiz, July 21 and 22, 1781. The list includes a ship called the Santa Casilda, an 8 cannoned Bombarda led by Juan Maria Lasqueti.

  • Santa Casilda. 8 cañones. Comte. Teniente de navío don Juan María Lasqueti
  • Google translated this into: Santa Casilda. 8 cannons. Comte. Lieutenant of the ship Don Juan María Lasqueti.

From Tanis:  I researched a little bit about the Menorca Expedition: The Spanish invasion fleet (51 troop carriers, 18 supply vessels, 3 hospital ships, 3 "viveres", 2 bombardment ships, a fireship, and 13 armed escorts – matches Gordon’s list) departed Cadiz on 23 July 1781, initially heading westward to appear as if its destination was America, but turned in the night and passed Gibraltar on 25 July. At some time over the next few days the Spanish were discreetly joined by French warships. The combined fleet left La Subida on 5 August, came within sight of Alicante on 14 August, then in the night of 17 August headed away from the Spanish coast and sailed parallel to Formentera. On 18 August, as it passed the little island of Cabrera, south of Majorca, the fleet was joined by another 4 warships, from Palma. That night, the wind blew from the south-east, and the fleet had to take precautions to avoid being blown aground on Majorca, but Menorca was sighted the next morning. The ultimate result was the devolution of the island (Menorca) to Spain in the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

And then ….

Wikipedia success with the longer name: Juan José Ruiz de Apodaca y Eliza, 1st Count of Venadito, OIC, OSH, KOC (3 February 1754, Cadiz, Spain – 11 January 1835)-  a Spanish naval officer and viceroy of New Spain from 20 September 1816 to 5 July 1821, during Mexico's War of Independence.  From 1781 to 1790 he was a captain, in charge of ships of the line, and afterward he was in charge of the reconstruction of the harbor at Tarragona. In October 1802 he was named commandant of the arsenal at Cadiz. Now in command of a squadron, he made major improvements at Cadiz. When the French invaded Spain, he took command of the remnants of a Spanish fleet, which had been largely captured or destroyed in the Battle of Trafalgar, and captured the French squadron opposite his own. He was subsequently ambassador plenipotentiary in Britain and Captain General of Florida and Cuba (1812–15).

His reputation was that of a man of tact and good judgment. As Viceroy of new Spain: He banned the flying of kites (as a safety measure, because they were generally flown from rooftops). He closely reviewed the public accounts, paid off the public debt, stopped relying on loans to fund the government, and relied instead only on the customs duties, taxes and other fees due the government. He revived the commercial and mining sectors of the economy, insofar as that was possible in a time of war.

The royalists, led by Brigadier Buceli, declared Apodaca inept and deposed him on July 5, 1821. Apodaca was sent to Spain to face charges, but he was absolved and returned to duty. He was captain general of the Spanish navy at the time of his death in 1835. The city of Apodaca in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, is named for him.

And finally ….

I got curious about who Lasqueti's ship, the Santa Casilda, was named after.  Casilda of Toledo (died c. 1050), was a daughter of a Muslim king of Toledo, Spain during the rule of the Caliphate, who showed special kindness to Christian prisoners. She would carry bread hidden in her clothes to feed these prisoners; one day, when caught, the bread was miraculously changed into roses. Her feast day is April 9th to celebrate the Miracle of the Roses.



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