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

"The Bute Inlet Massacre and Its Causes"

The Victoria Colonist, June 13, 1864

[ Bentinck Arm Route, C. Venables, BCA CM B91 ]

Editor British Colonist — I have so far refrained from answering the nonsense of the British Columbian with respect to myself and the Bute Inlet Trail, nor am I now going to trouble your readers or myself on the subject; but when in other quarters I see vague accusation hunted up against the dead and calumnies mysteriously circulated in order to serve a certain purpose, and throw the burden of the late massacres there where it does not belong, it becomes a duty to speak out and vindicate those who alas! can no longer speak for themselves.

Now, sir, I say at once that the real cause of the Bute Inlet massacre had nothing to do with the conduct of the victims themselves, who neither "excited the assassins by ill-usage or provoked them by injustice or improper conduct"; and I am going to prove the contrary.

The public are aware that the sole originators of the Bute Inlet massacre were Chilcoaten Indians from the Upper country who had never been down before at Bute Inlet. Several of them were from the neighborhood of Lake Nacontloon, and one of the principal murderers was well known to belong to the Chief A agrim's tribe. The Nacontloon and Be la Coula tribes are on the most friendly terms and constantly intermarry, and the real provocations which took place amongst them were what brought down the vengeance of those Indians on my innocent party. I am no magistrate sir, nor have I ever been a detective of police, but I have carefully collected the following details, which, unlike the secrecy which has been observed with respect to myself I lay fearlessly before the public and challenge contradiction.

Is it therefore true or not, that the year before last Lieutenant Palmer or his serjeant on their way through to Alexandria broke through some well known Indian usage, and that Lieutenant Palmer knocked down the son of the second Chief of the tribe, who resented it, and that Lieutenant Palmer then threatened to shoot him, on which the young man returned with fifty armed Indians, bared his breast, and dared him to do so? The Indians were too powerful, and Lieutenant Palmer desisted; but surely that affront has never been forgiven.

Did not the whites also, about the same time, bring the small-pox to Bella-Coula where it [has?] spread to Nacoutloon, and as far as the Benshee and Chisient Lakes, when myself saw the graves of perhaps 500 Indians; and was not one-third of the population carried off by that first visitation; for there was a second one of which I shall have to speak presently?

And did not the white settlers communicate another contagion to those tribes, of which the second Chief at Bella Coula is now slowly dying?

And did not two of the upper Chilcoatens, who were foremost in the massacre at Bute Inlet (one of them with the very wide mouth), come down so diseased? and were they not furnished with medicine, and kindly taken care of in the camp, doing nothing, and at my expense for more than a month before the murder?

Whilst the small-pox was raging it is well known that the Indians could hardly muster courage to bury their dead; but they carried the bodies out into the bush, packed up the infected blankets, and deposited them by their side. Little by little, however, the contagion ceased, and the survivors again began to breathe. In the meanwhile a settler, who is still at Bella Coula, made a bargain to marry a pretty young Indian girl, according to the Indian fashion. This was willingly consented to, and the relations made their presents of blankets to the bridegroom, to the amount of several dozen all of which were to be returned in a month or so, in the proportion of two for one, Indian fashion. And there was great feasting at the expense of the Indians, and the bridegroom took his wife home. He was to receive vast quantities of blankets and rich presents from Victoria, by the first schooner, which never came! and at the end of four months the relations had to take the poor girl back again, dishonored. Was that a provocation, or not?

And did not a certain Mr. N-____ live for a whole year at the expense of the Indians, telling them he was a great Tyhee sent out by the government, and that he would shortly receive any amount of blankets and previsions? And did he not persuade them to build him a large store, some 30 feet by 40, the Indians contributing the split boards from their own huts? For all of which he gave each of them an acknowledgment for twenty or more blankets, as the case might be, payable on arrival from Victoria, which arrival never took place, and the scrip is still in the hands of the Indians?

And did not about the same time one Angus McLeod and another named Taylor go and collect those same infested blankets in the bushes, which the Indians had deposited with the bodies of three men dead of the small-pox, and put them up carefully as new ones and sell them again to the Indians which brought on a second contagion, carrying off another third of the population, and Angus McLeod, the perpetrator into the bargain, as he well deserved.

Such are a few of the details I here collected, and is it to be supposed, even by officials that such diabolical deeds did not arouse the hatred of the Indians, and those who came down to Bute Inlet? My men and myself had been utterly guiltless of any such base action, yet the vengeance which fell upon them and upon those at Benshee Lake, and which has now got to be punished is attributed to ourselves -- because I complain and have asked and still ask for an indemnity. The Indians who came down to Bute Inlet had been shamefully treated, unknown to ourselves, but hardly unknown to the Government, they found a party who in the innocence of their hearts and their confidence in the coast government, felt secure and were working unarmed, and those Indians were naturally tempted to take a cruel revenge and plunder where they had been plundered.

Let the dispassionate public compare the provocations as above stated, with the vague charges that have been brought against the unfortunate victims of the massacre. I am speaking of what is generally known of those charges; for the particulars, though so well known, as it appears, and circulated in certain quarters, have been carefully hid from myself and those who alone could answer them. They are founded entirely on Indian testimony, and chiefly I believe on that of squint eye, a man whose want of veracity is so notorious that no magistrate, when aware of it, ought to believe one word he says --Such testimony, obtained by a sort of detective police procedure, is of little value, and the whole system calculated to intimidate and bewilder the mind of the poor Indian, whose easily led to say what he thinks may be agreeable to the great Government Tyhee who is questioning him. Moreover, all these charges are emphatically denied by every one of the survivors of the expedition, eight in number! one of whom, by-the-bye, was questioned and counter-questioned on Friday afternoon by certain officials at New Westminster, till, as he told me, "it revolted him." So much for the zeal of government officials, who try to prove too much, deceive both themselves and the government they wish to serve and injure the latter in the public opinion.

Alfred Waddington

Source: Alfred Waddington, "The Bute Inlet Massacre and Its Causes," The Victoria Colonist, June 13, 1864.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History