We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

A Military Force Wanted

The British Columbian, June 1, 1864

Less than twelve month ago we wrote an article under this caption, the object of which was to point out the impolicy of withdrawing every vestige of a military force from British Columbia at a time when the uncivilized native population was about ten times as great as that of the whites, and before anything in the shape of an Indian policy had been introduced into the country, and while yet anything but a good understanding existed in the mind of the aborigines as to the motives and intentions of the “pale-faced intruders,” and we warned the Governments, both Colonial and Imperial, of the probable effect the withdrawal of the military, small as it was, would be likely to have upon the native population. The quasi-prediction contained in the article alluded to has received – is still receiving – a most practical and melancholy fulfilment, inasmuch as to the known absence of any military force in the Colony is to be attributed, in a very great degree, the recent Indian outbreak at Bute Inlet.

We learn from the Rev. Pierre Fouquet, who returned a few days ago from a pastoral cruise up the coast into Russian America, and who visited all the Indian settlements on the seaboard of this Colony as well as those inhabiting the islands belonging thereto, that it was quite understood amongst these people that the military had been withdrawn, and, as they have it, the naval force too. Now, any one who knows with what fear, almost amounting to superstition, the Indians view the military will readily agree with us in saying that had there been such a force in the country we should not have to record the painful fact that a very large section of this Colony is now in the possession of savages who have, in all probability, by this time murdered every white man it!

Whether the responsibility rests with our late Governor or with the Imperial Government matters very little to us now. It is enough to know that that foolish step has cost probably forty or fifty of the colonists their lives and has involved the country in an embroglio which may cost many more lives and is certain to entail a very large expenditure upon the already impoverished and encumbered revenue. We have no fear of the ability of Governor Seymour to subdue the refractory Indians, and bring to justice those who have imbrued their hands in the blood of the whites. But, that accomplished, it by no means follows that the difficulty is at an end. Our relations with the Indians will not be on a safe or enduring basis until every tribe is included in a treaty by which proper rights are secured to them and a thorough understanding is established between them and the whites; and such an understanding cannot be successfully brought about while the country is destitute of a military force, nor do we believe it would be of long duration without such a force, for a few years at least, until such time as the natives would have an opportunity of assuring themselves that the whites would keep faith with them, and that to keep the treaty would conduce to their own ultimate welfare.

As we said a short time ago, the best and cheapest way will be to do the right and just thing by the Indians. And the sooner it is done the better; for every year that we delay is only rendering the task more difficult and more expensive, while the present aspect of our Indian relations must prove most disastrous to the settlement of the country. In attempting to carry out this great and, in many respects, difficult undertaking, we must, of course, look to the Home Government for material aid. We must have both Imperial soldiers and Imperial cash; and the sooner they are forthcoming the less of them will be needed.

Let Governor Seymour, then, carry out to a successful issue what he has begun with so much promptitude and energy. Let the perpetrators of the recent tragedy be hunted up and punished at whatever cost. That accomplished, let His Excellency obtain from home both a military and a naval force with a view to putting the Indians in a fitting frame of mind for entering into a treaty, once and for all. We do not mean to force them into a treaty at the point of the bayonet or the mouth of the cannon. Such a thing would be as impolitic as it would be unjust. But the position we take is this: From the peculiar character of the Indians it would be exceedingly difficult to make terms with them or induce them, in the first instance, to keep faith unless they were made aware that the Governor had at his disposal the means of compelling obedience to, and punishing the infraction of, the law.

Source: "A Military Force Wanted," The British Columbian, June 1, 1864.

Return to parent page

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History