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

James Douglas

Sir James Douglas is arguably the most significant figure in the early history of British Columbia. He was the son of a Scottish merchant and a "Creole" woman of British Guiana. In 1819, at age 16, he entered the fur trade in the employment of the North West Company, which later united with the Hudson's Bay Company. He rose in favour with his superiors and became Chief Factor of Fort Victoria and was appointed Governor of Vancouver Island in 1851. In 1858, his duties expanded to include the governorship of mainland British Columbia. Called by some "The Father of British Columbia," James Douglas was responsible for establishing British rule on the Pacific Coast; laying the foundation for Canada's extension to the Pacific; forging policies for land, mining and water rights; and establishing a road to the Cariboo. One of Douglas's main concerns was Indian policy, and he was responsible for the establishment of several treaties on Vancouver Island during his administration. Although Douglas was no longer in office during the Chilcotin War, his presence, or lack thereof, was not insignificant. Some academics have suggested that the void created by his retirement left B.C.'s aboriginal peoples so unsettled that they may have been more prone to violence. In aboriginal societies, chiefs didn't retire; their term ended upon their death. The B.C. Archives contains volumes of information about James Douglas including diaries, letters, and official correspondence. For more information about his life, several full-length biographies exist, including John Adams book Old square-toes and his lady : the life of James and Amelia Douglas. (Victoria, B.C.: Horsdal & Schubart Publishers, 2001) and Derek Pethick's James Douglas : servant of two empires. (Vancouver, B.C.: Mitchell Press, 1969).

Secondary Sources

Ormsby, Margaret. "James Douglas." In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. X. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1972.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History