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

Sir James Douglas and The Indian

The British Columbian, June 8, 1864

We can scarcely say we are surprised at the turn the personal friends of the late Governor seek to give the recent Indian outrages on the Bute Inlet route. The impression is sought to be made that it is all owing to the withdrawal of a Governor whose long and intimate acquaintance and intercourse with the natives had given him a powerful influence over them which no other Governor could ever hope to exert; that they looked up to him with confidence as a great “Tyhee.” This idea has recently been put forward both through the Press of the neighboring Colony and by the ex-Governor's few admirers in this Colony. The other day Mr. Waddington displayed the bad taste, while in the presence of Governor Kennedy, to say in reply to a remark about the late Governor's “bread and treacle” system, “the system had lost its effect on the departure of Governor Douglas, who was looked on as a Tyhee by the natives.” The Governor’s reply was short, to the point, and will constitute a standing rebuff to the miserable attempt that is being made to prop up the waning popularity of a retiring Governor at the expense of his successors. We give the reply as published in the Chronicle: — His Excellency feared the system had failed before his predecessor had left. He found that murders had been taking place almost periodically before he had arrived here, and nothing attempted to be done. It was very bad policy to make demonstrations and nothing more.

This reply of Governor Kennedy’s strikes a key-note which we would not now have felt disposed to take up had not the indiscretion of overzealous friends rendered it necessary. We felt disposed as far as possible to allow Mr. Douglas to depart in peace had not this base attempt been made to place both Governor Seymour and Governor Kennedy in a false position upon this Indian question. Those who have been constant readers of the BRITISH COLUMBIAN will hardly need to be reminded that we have devoted much space to exposing the loose and dangerous state of our relations with the Indians, the absurdity of the policy, so-called, pursued towards them by Mr. Douglas and the necessity of inaugurating a well devised Indian system, if we would avoid those troubles and misunderstandings which have cost so much in money and in blood in other Colonies. These writings were of course, entirely unheeded, and the Colony was permitted to drift helplessly on towards the breakers which now admonish us of our folly and of our danger in letters of blood!

But what has been the Douglas Indian policy? Every one at all acquainted with Indian character will endorse the following statement made by Governor Kennedy: — “The true mode of dealing with savages here or anywhere else is with strict justice, good faith, and the greatest firmness.” Where are we to look for the exercise of any one of these three cardinal requisites in the late administration? Is it the mock justice which hanged three Indians at Victoria without anything deserving the name of a trial? Is it to be found in the unheard-of act of Sir James in stepping in between justice and Indian “Loodeezeoosh,” who was committed to the Jail here to stand his trial for the cowardly and unprovoked murder of two men upon one of our north-west coast islands?

We claim indulgence while we explain this last case, the particulars of which may not be generally known. An Indian named “Takak” was brought here, tried, sentenced, and executed on the 6th January, 1863, for the murder of two white men upon one of our islands. It transpired during the trial that his brother, Loodeezeoosh, was with him, and was a principal in the crime. For some time he eluded the officers of justice, but in the following April he was secured by Capt. Pike, R. N., commander of H. M. Ship Devastation, delivered up to the authorities here and committed for trial. The evidence against him was most conclusive, in fact precisely the same as that upon which his brother was executed three months previous, and yet, in July of the same year, he was delivered up, in obedience to an order from the then Governor, and set at liberty!! Had he been tried, found guilty and sentenced His Excellency unquestionably possessed the power to reprieve him, but to step in and interfere with justice by rescuing him between his committal and his trial he had no right. His royal mistress would not dare to do such a thing were the prisoner her own son; yet all this Sir James has actually done. His justice to the Indians may be summed up in one short sentence – hanging the innocent without trial and illegally prostituting his power to screen the guilty from justice!

“Good faith.” Where shall we find an example of that? The best reply is given by the Indians in their own words in the classical “Chinook:” – "Hiyu closh wawa pe wake consick mamook coqua,” which, being rendered into English, would read – “He gives many good words but never performs.” As for his “firmness” we must look for that in vain also. The fact is the recent murders, so far from being the result of the withdrawal of Sir James, are but the natural fruits of his policy, which was so deficient in “justice, good faith and firmness,” and only differ from a series of murders committed with impunity under the late administration in the number of the victims. It is quite a mistake, so far as can yet be seen, to invest the Bute Inlet murder with all the importance of an Indian insurrection. There is nothing before us to show that as a tribe the Chilicootens are identified with it – certainly no ground whatever for assuming that other tribes sympathise with the bloody act. It is simply a murder, committed by some sixteen Indians, partly for the sake of plunder, doubtless, but chiefly, we are bound to believe, out of revenge for wrongs, real or imaginary.

We have no desire to harrow the feelings of bereaved relatives or cast a shade over the memory of the dead, but the cause of justice demands that we should contradict the assertion that the Bute Inlet massacre was unprovoked. The evidence taken by Mr. Brew proves that such was not the case. The treatment the Indians employed in packing received at the hands of Brewster and his party was at once calculated to arouse their cupidity and provoke their vengeance. All this, however, does not lessen the necessity of dealing out to them prompt justice, and convincing the Indians, one and all, that they are now amenable to British law, a law which they cannot transgress with impunity.

Source: "Sir James Douglas and the Indians," The British Columbian, June 8, 1864.

Return to parent page

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History