Peter Tai

Peter Tai, a native of Hawaii, enlisted with the Hudson’s Bay Company in April 1830 from O’ahu and spent most of his career at Fort Langley (1830-1833; 1834-1842), with a short period of employment constructing Fort Nisqually between 1833-1834. Fort Nisqually was built in May 1833 (relocated in 1834), becoming in 1838 headquarters of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company in response to American farming settlements. During Tai’s latter period at Fort Langley, he was described as a ‘middleman’ (paddlers in the middle position of a canoe), which was afforded mainly to Hawaiians, rather than ‘steersman’ or ‘bowsman’. The Fort Victoria Journal records Tai’s occupations as that of “sawyer” (19th November, 1847) and as a worker at the Mill (18th April, 1848). He lived common-law with a Saanich woman, whose child Eugene (1840-?) was baptized at the Stellamaris Mission as a natural child. It can be ascertained that the ‘Tai’ referenced in the Fort Victoria Journal is identical with the person identified by Barman and Watson, as Finlayson recorded Tai’s Christian name of ‘Peter’ on 20th November, 1847. During April, 1848, Tai became ill with the measles, progressively deteriorating as his condition developed dysentery around mid-May. Finlayson recorded the signs of dysentery among the Hawaiians on the sick list on 20th May, noting in particular that Tai had become “dangerously ill” on the 23rd May. The Fort Victoria Journal recorded Peter Tai died on 26th May, 1848, and was subsequently buried on May 27th. (This entry in the Fort Victoria Journal places Tai at the time of his death at Fort Victoria, and not at Fort Langley, following Barman and Watson).


  • Barman, Jean and Bruce Watson, Leaving Paradise: Indigenous Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006).
  • Francis Norbert, 1795-1883, Demers, Modeste, 1809-1871, Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver, Volumes I and II, and Stellamaris Mission. (Translated by Mikell De Lores Wormell Warner and annotated by Harriet Duncan Munnick). (St. Paul: French Prairie Press, 1972).
  • Galbraith, John S., “The Early History of the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company, 1838-1843,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 3 (September, 1954):234-259.
Frederick Gentz