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

Waddington and Bute Inlet

The British Columbian, June 18, 1864

“Poor Waddy.” If any further proof were needed of the diseased state of the old gentleman’s mind, so far as applied to the scheme of which he appears to be the unfortunate victim, we have it in his last attempt to explain the circumstances which led to the massacre of a number of his men near Bute Inlet. In a letter published in the British Colonist of Monday last, after the opening flourish, he starts with the broad assertion that, “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.” Then, after asserting — what we flatly deny, and what the public are by no means aware of – “that the sole originators of the massacre were Chilicooten Indians from the upper country who had never before been down at Bute Inlet,” he advances, as proof No. 1, a scene said to have happened between Lieutenant Palmer, R.E., and the Indians at Bentinck Arm in 1862. Unfortunately for Mr. Waddington what he describes really never did take place! It is a pure fabrication. We have neither time nor patience to deal with all his “proofs,” but merely give the first as a specimen. But surely it betrays very great presumption, if not weakness, on the part of Mr. Waddington to suppose that the public will place more reliance in the ex parte statements of a man who is deeply and directly interested in the subject upon which he treats than in the result of a judicial investigation by an officer placed entirely above the influences of self interest. That investigation led to the conviction that the chief, if not the sole, cause of the massacre was the treatment the Indians experienced at the hands of those who became the victims of their vengeance.

Mr. Waddington assigns as one cause of the massacre that the whites communicated a certain contagion to the Indians at Bella Coola, leaving it to be inferred that upon his workmen was visited the penalty due to others. Unfortunately for his object, however, it would not appear necessary to travel to Bella Coola for a provocation which he admits had to do with the massacre, as there was abundance of evidence to show that his own men had indulged largely in the same vice, and that that indulgence was followed with the usual consequences. But why has Mr. Waddington shifted his ground? A few weeks ago he assigned as the cause of the massacre the fact that the Chilicooten Indians were opposed to the construction of the road through their territory. Now he trumps up a list of groundless stories as the cause. But why multiply words in exposing the disingenuousness of the course adopted by the advocates of Bute Inlet. The following, which we copy from “Good Words,” exactly describes their present position, and we respectfully recommend it to their careful perusal:-

“The Turkey is a silly bird; and the French call a person Dindon whom we, with less propriety, call a goose; that being very far from a silly bird. In America they are said to entrap the wild turkeys through their silliness. On a slight slope, just at the edge, a kind of pen is made of sticks, and covered over. At the lowest part an open is left, sufficient to admit a turkey, and corn is strewn within and without the pen, to entice them in. When they have entered they might escape by simply descending to the entrance and walking out the way they walked in. But, instead of this, they vainly beat against the sides of the pen, till the trapper comes and despatches them.

Many featherless bipeds are like these turkeys. When it is plainly proved that you have formed a rash judgement or taken an unwise step, the right course manifestly is to confess this and retract, and retrace your steps. But most men are too much of turkeys to do this. Usually, when a man finds himself in a pen], and that there is no thoroughfare, rather than descend so far as to own a mistake, and walk out of the error the same way he had walked into it, he will resort to every kind of shuffle. He will insist on it that he was quite right all along, but that there has been a change in some of the people, or in the circumstances. Or perhaps he will flatly deny that he ever said so and so; or maintain that he was misunderstood. Anything rather than retract and acknowledge an error.

And yet a man who does this frankly will usually obtain great applause for his candor and good sense; even more perhaps than he would have had if he had avoided the error from the first. Yet even this will not tempt most men to take this ingenious and wise course. They are too much of Turkeys.”

Source: "Waddington and Bute Inlet," The British Columbian, June 18, 1864.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History