Cooktown does a great job of honouring the various strands of its history. The streets are full of information panels, statues and street art that draw attention to Aboriginal history; Captain Cook’s visit; the Palmer River gold rush and the flood of Chinese; and European settlement. The Captain Cook museum, housed in a beautiful old convent restored out of rack and ruin, has Aboriginal and Chinese rooms as well as Cook memorabilia.
The Aboriginal story is told on the tiled Milbi wall, created by Aboriginal artists. It begins with the story of the creation of the Endeavour River and proceeds in a long flow through the missions up to the present. The story also appears in footpath tiles, an image paired with words, and in word-panels and objects in the Cook Museum.
Captain James Cook is memorialised everywhere. He spent forty eight days in Cooktown strategising his next step when his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground on the reef. There is James Cook monument commemorating his landing on June 17, 1770, featuring kangaroo and wombat heads; James Cook statue; a cairn to mark the place where he beached the Endeavour; and in the museum the tree he tethered the Endeavour to and one of its anchors.
Other traces of white colonisation appear in a cairn dedicated to Edmund Kennedy, an explorer of the region who was speared in 1848; a statue of a hopeful miner with swag, pick and pan; and a cannon begged from the government in Brisbane to ward off a feared Russian invasion. The story of Mary Watson, wife of a beche-de-mer fisherman, told in another post, is also honoured in a monument.
When gold was discovered on the Palmer River, there was of course a rush to make fortunes. By 1877, an astonishing ninety percent of the goldfield population was Chinese (http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:205732/s00855804_1987_13_2_49.pdf) Cooktown acknowledges this huge Chinese presence with a sculpture near the wharf and a room of objects in the museum, including a pair of tiny shoes, not much bigger than a baby’s, to fit bound feet.