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

Our Indian Difficulties

The British Columbian, June 11, 1864

We have observed, with pain, the disposition evinced by the Island Press as well as the people of Victoria, if one may take the sentiments uttered at a late public meeting as fairly indicating popular opinion, to charge the Government of this Colony with feckless and culpable imbecility in taking steps for the punishment of the perpetrators of the recent massacre near Bute Inlet. Governor Seymour is charged with sending the expedition to Bute Inlet on a fool’s errand; he is found fault with for not dispatching the Forward at once to Bentinck Arm, and he is even held responsible for the subsequent murders in the interior which are supposed to have occurred! His Excellency’s dispatch to Governor Kennedy, which is published in the Victoria papers, ought to make our rash and excitable neighbors feel ashamed. That document not only alludes to what has been done but indicates the reason why more has not been accomplished. Unquestionably much delay and apparent inaction has characterised the movements of the Government since the news of that unhappy massacre reached us. But before holding any one responsible for these surely it would have been both wise and just to have informed themselves a little better as to where the fault really lay.

It is hardly necessary for us to allude again to the promptitude with which the expedition to Bute Inlet was organized and dispatched. Our Government cannot be held responsible for the unavoidable delay in getting the gun-boat here any more than for the yet unexplained circumstance of the intelligence of the massacre having been detained nearly three days at Victoria. And it is certainly very extraordinary that the Press should seek to ridicule the plan of operations seeing it was not only suggested by Sir James Douglas but actually recommended by themselves. These same papers most urgently advocated the sending of a force to Bute Inlet for the double purpose of pursuing the murderers and extending succor to any of the whites who might possibly have survived. And, besides, surely the first step was properly to have the matter investigated on the spot, instead of acting upon information which, however well it appeared to be authenticated, might possibly have turned out like the rumored subsequent massacre which led to the exciting meeting in Victoria and afforded certain orators such a rare opportunity of indulging their favorite propensity for bunkum, and called forth the appropriate petition which was offered up in at least one of our churches on the following Sabbath – “Lord restrain the vengeance of the savage, and bring speedily to an end the blood-thirstiness of professing Christians.” Yet this very movement, which was suggested by the retiring Governor, strongly advocated by the Press of Victoria and really necessary if for no other purpose than a proper judicial investigation, is sought to be turned into ridicule by a writer in the Colonist], who compares it to the feat of the “French King who marched his men up hill and then marched them down again.” At the same time we venture to say that had that King marched his men up such a hill as “Mount Waddington” he would have been entitled to no small credit for marching them safely down again.

The fact is the expedition to Bute Inlet was a failure so far as extending operations into the interior is concerned. But whose fault was that? Is Governor Seymour to blame because the Bute route is impracticable for an armed party? Next we find our Government severely rated because the Forward was not sent on to Bentinck instead of returning here. Are these people aware that the Forward is quite unsuited for such a voyage? that she has not sufficient capacity to carry half a supply of coal to take her there and back? -- that the cruise would probably have occupied her two months? Or are they ignorant of the fact that Governor Seymour with difficulty procured the services of that boat upon the express condition that it was to be returned as soon as possible, and that he was positively refused the use of a suitable vessel to undertake the trip to Bentinck Arm? If they are ignorant of all these circumstances they have acted most unwisely, and unjustly, too, in speaking and writing as they have without taking the trouble to inform themselves upon the subject, and their proper course now is to make ample apology for their conduct.

The fact is Governor Seymour has displayed an amount of energy and firmness in the difficult position in which he found himself placed that has commanded the respect and admiration of all those who are in a position to judge. Indeed, so far from being charged with supineness here, some begin to fear that His Excellency may err in the other direction, at least so far as the revenue is concerned. Considering the fact that he was a stranger in the Colony, and that he experienced so much difficulty and delay in a quarter from which he least expected it, Governor Seymour has certainly not left himself open to the charges which have been so rashly and thoughtlessly hurled at him from the people of Victoria. He at once dispatched arms and ammunition to Alexandria with instructions for a force to be enrolled and marched against the Indians, and at the earliest possible moment he has sent off a strong and well equipped expedition to Bentinck Arm. If one part of the programme suggested by Sir James Douglas and advocated by our contemporaries -- that of making Bute Inlet a base of operations into the interior -- has been abandoned it is simply because it has been proved to be utterly impracticable.

Source: "Our Indian Difficulties," The British Columbian, June 11, 1864.

Return to parent page

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History