Between 1790 and 1794, Spanish and English expeditions to Nootka Bay reported two very different accounts of cannibalistic activities among the Nuu-cha-nulth. The British vividly described cannibalistic practices, whereas the Spanish observers claimed that the Nootka no longer practiced cannibalism. Many historians and anthropologists use these reports to debate the existence or absence of cannibalism among native peoples in the Pacific Northwest. This article argues that the differences reveal more about European concepts of race, culture, and society than whether cannibalism existed on the Northwest Coast. These differences capture the transition from past interpretations to Enlightenment ideals juxtaposed with national interests, highlighting how Spain and England saw their role in shaping the history of humanity.

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