Ranald MacDonald was the son of the Scotsman Archibald McDonald (1790-1853), who was working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the Chinook Koale’xoa, princess Raven, daughter of the most important Chinook leader, Comcomly (1765-1830). Koale’xoa died shortly after she gave birth to Ranald. Her own date of birth is not known.
The life of Ranald MacDonald, probably definitively described in 2003 by Frederik L. Schodt in his Native American in the Land of the Shogun: Ranald MacDonald and the Opening of Japan, reads like a book for boys and young men. In his early years MacDonald decided to go to Japan, although he was aware of Japan’s ‘closed country’ policy. As a whaler he finally succeeded in having himself stranded on the coast of Yagishiri, a small island in northern Japan, in 1848. Against all odds he was imprisoned instead of beheaded, as the policy of ‘the closed country’ prescribed.