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

The Bute Massacre

The British Columbian, May 18, 1864

With the very limited information we at present possess respecting this bloody and, so far as is yet known, wanton massacre, it would be premature to enter upon the merits of the case. We are too apt, in the first flush of excited indignation, to cry out for the utter and indiscriminate extermination of the savages, dealing out to them Lynch law instead of British justice. A knowledge of the treatment to which the ignorant and untutored Indian is often subjected in his intercourse with the white man ought to lead us to receive with caution the ipse dixit statement of the latter concerning an affray such as that which has recently transpired at Bute Inlet. We do not desire to excite sympathy for the Indians concerned in this bloody tragedy; for, so far as is yet known, they are entitled to none at our hands. But we hope to see the same impartial justice brought into requisition in dealing with the aborigines that we would desire to have meted out ourselves. If, indeed, there is any difference, they are entitled to be treated more leniently in consideration of their untutored mind and their indistinct conception of right and wrong.

Whatever may be the issue of this melancholy affair it should teach the Government the necessity of having some recognized and available power more immediately at their command for suppressing outbreaks and enforcing law. Had even one of the gunboats, which were sent out by the Imperial Government for service in this Colony, been stationed here the party which left on Sabbath evening might have left on Saturday morning, even allowing for the unaccountable tardiness displayed by the authorities of the neighboring Colony in apprising our Government of the affair, and two days in such an emergency may be of the most vital consequence. The alacrity with which Governor Seymour brought into requisition such means as he had at his disposal entitles him to the greatest praise; but the fact that after learning that the massacre had been perpetrated he was under the necessity of dispatching a steamer to another Colony for the means of transporting a force to the scene of the outrage ought to convince His Excellency of the propriety of having one of the gunboats stationed here.

With an extensive coast peopled by many thousands of savage Indians, frequently committing depredations upon the whites who seek commercial intercourse with them or who may be engaged in exploring those portions of the Colony over which these people claim dominion, it is essential that His Excellency should have the means of promptly enforcing law and punishing crime constantly at his disposal. The Indians know very well that this Colony is totally unprovided with any military force; and a knowledge of that fact has by no means tended to render them more quiet and submissive. Those petty tribes – little more than mere remnants of tribes – residing in this more immediate vicinity are not likely to prove dangerous. With the loss of numbers and power they have lost that haughty national pride and fierce warlike spirit which characterizes the larger and more independent tribes. That desire for dominion and the disposition to resent the claims and intrusion of the whites has disappeared, and their highest ambition would appear to be to live at ease either upon the generosity or vice of the Anglo-Saxon race, to whom they so readily succumb. But it would be well to remember that in the interior and upon the seaboard are still to be found tribes comparatively powerful and warlike, the management of whom is a very different and often difficult affair.

These Indians must be taught that our laws are just and impartial and must be enforced and respected. We have now an excellent opportunity of teaching this important lesson to one tribe not the least formidable and warlike in the Colony; and if the firmness and promptitude already displayed by Governor Seymour in this affair may be taken as a sample we have every prospect of seeing a better understanding between the Government and the native tribes than has hitherto existed. But, in order to teach the Indians to appreciate and respect British law our Governor must have at hand the means of promptly enforcing obedience; one of the gunboats must be stationed here for service in the river and on our coast. The very fact of its presence would exercise a salutary influence over the Indian mind throughout the country, and in the absence of any military force it would seem to be a necessity. Let us hope, therefore, that this melancholy and much-to-be regretted outrage which has happened at so early a period in the new administration may be turned to a good, practical account by leading His Excellency to adopt those precautionary and preventive measures within his reach, and which are always so much better than anything in the shape of a cure.

Source: "The Bute Massacre," The British Columbian, May 18, 1864.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History