(Investigator14, 1990 November)

In 1785 Louis 16th of France sent a research expedition to the Pacific under the command of the Count of La Perouse.

In 1786 the expedition made peaceful first contact with "savages" on the Alaskan coast. In 1788 the entire expedition, except for one crew member, perished in the South Pacific. But a record of the first contact survived.

One hundred years later a chief of the Tlingit "savages" told G.T. Emmons, a Canadian anthropologist, the story of that first meeting of his ancestors with the white man. The Tlingit had no written records. The story had been handed down by word of mouth for a century. The received oral transmission, however, turned out to be a "recognizable and accurate account of their first ... encounter with an alien culture."

Carl Sagan, though a firm believer in life on distant planets, reasons:

"The account of Cowee, the Tlingit chief, shows that even in a preliterate culture a recognizable account of contact with an advanced civilization can be preserved for generations. If the Earth had been visited hundreds or thousands of years ago by an advanced estraterrestrial civilization, even if the contact culture was preliterate, we might expect to have some recognizable form of the encounter preserved. But there is not a single case in which a legend reliably dated from earlier pretechnological times can be understood only in terms of contact with an extraterrestrial civilization."
(Cosmos 1983, Futura, Britain, pp. 333-336)