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

Emergency Meeting

The Daily British Colonist, June 2, 1864.

[ Victoria BC, 1864, Accession No. R9266-342, E.M. Richardson, National Archives of Canada  ]

A public meeting was convened last evening in the Theatre by his Worship the Mayor upon a requisition signed by a number of citizens, to consider, the best means of strengthening the hands of the sister Government to secure and punish the perpetrators of the recent massacres, and to protect the lives of her Majesty’s subjects in the settlements on the North-west coast of British Columbia. The theatre was filled to excess at an early hour, and the most intense interest was manifested in the proceedings.

The Mayor, who was cheered on his appearance, took the chair at 8 p.m.

On the platform we noticed Messrs. A. Waddington (who was also warmly cheered), A. DeCosmos, M.L A.; Rev. A.C. Garrett; Geo. Cruickshank; C.J. Hughes; Dr. Dickson; C.B. Young; P.M. Backus; Robert Bishop; A.C. Elliott; R. George, E. Mallandaine, and others.

The Chairman expressed his sorrow at the occasion which called forth the present meeting. He said it was a meeting called among the people themselves, and he hoped to God it would be the last time he would have to appear before them on such a cause. He hoped the people would cordially concur in aiding the Government of British Columbia in bringing the perpetrators of the late tragedies to justice, and that the meeting would be enabled to lend manly protection to the lives of their fellow creatures (hear, hear.) He concluded by an allusion to the late melancholy scenes, and invited all persons to come on the platform and express their opinions.

Mr. DeCosmos was called upon to move the first resolution. He regarded the occasion which called the meeting together as one from which none should flinch. He believed he was one of the first who had mooted the subject of the Bute coast route, and he did not then think that he should be now compelled to express the feelings of the community at such outrages. He moved that it be

Resolved, — That the whole community have received with heartfelt sorrow and the greatest indignation the intelligence of the murder of a number of our fellow countrymen by Indians in British Columbia, and view with extreme anxiety the dangerous condition of the outlying settlements and mining localities in this and the neighboring Colony.

The resolution freely expressed his views; we were all sorry that men engaged in this undertaking had lost their lives. We were all highly indignant and justly so. With us it was a matter of self-protection, and we were bound to take action against the Indian offenders in a practical manner. Our treatment with the Indians should be this: whenever life was taken, life should be sacrificed in return. The Indian knows no law but blood for blood (cheers). Any leniency only added audacity to their crimes. He inherited an antipathy and hatred to Indians, and did not entertain, with others, a morbid sympathy for them. He had lived among Indians and knew their treachery. He had known what it was to crawl on all fours after them with his bowie knife in his mouth, and had inherited his antipathy to the savages from outrages committed on his own family. On the broad principles of humanity we should render our settlements safe, and he knew of no means except by distributing our ships of war and armed volunteers on the coast, to put down crime immediately it occurred with a strong arm, and show the natives that they could not commit atrocities with impunity. He alluded to the sad report of the death of McDonald, who was a pioneer with Major Downie, and well known in this city, and paid a tribute of respect to Mr. Waddington, for whom he desired to see the meeting express its sympathy; believing that that worthy gentleman was not only entitled to sympathy but also to compensation, for the losses which had overtaken him through the acts of the savages.

Rev. Mr. Garrett seconded the resolution. He was happy to endorse the sentiments of their worthy and hon. representative. There was a time when he differed from him in his views of Indian character. His views have now changed; I have learned that we must deal with the Indian with truth, justice and severity. [The reporters were here interrupted by some violent person rapping loudly at the box door.] The speaker continued: White men could not look on calmly when their brethren had their hearts torn from their bodies, but by the most determined resolution show the Indians that such crimes must meet with the most condign punishment. He was satisfied that but a very short time would elapse before this night’s proceedings would be translated into every native tongue and carried by their swift canoes to the most distant tribes. He knew well that a feeling of deep hostility existed among the different tribes, as well as to the whites, but it was quite possible that they might banish all their private animosities while they gathered up the spoil and drank the blood of the whites. He did not believe that they could long keep up any combined movement, but if they only did it long enough to sacrifice twenty white lives, it was a picture sufficiently appalling to cause the most rigorous steps of repression to be taken. While the Indians felt the strong hand of the whites they were as meek and as cowardly as kittens, but when they saw our gunboats traverse the narrow Inlet without firing a shot [tremendous and continued applause] what could we expect but that the spirit of demons which possesses their blood should be roused to fiendish atrocity. While we were here we could but express our sympathy for the pioneer of civilization and progress [great applause] and also for the wives and children of our murdered fellow men, and we must take such means as may preserve those [illegible] of our city whom we were bound to nourish and whom we should regard as the mainstay of our future prosperity. [Tremendous applause].

The Chairman called upon Mr. Waddington, who came forward amidst loud applause.

Mr. Waddington said he was not there to tell his own story, but although an old man he had still a little blood in his veins, and could not refrain from expressing his feelings. He here stated what had been done, with which the public are already acquainted through the columns of the city papers. He alluded to the murder of the three men at Bella Coola, and said that he had pressed Governor Seymour to send a war vessel to Bella Coola to prevent further murders there, but for some reason or other it was decided that no vessel should be sent. Why, he could not say. The Columbine was being repaired, and the gunboats also could not be sent (tremendous hissing and cries of shame! shame!) Mr. Waddington briefly gave his views of the manner in which the late murders were committed. He said his firm belief was that ere this time the Indians, glutted with blood, had murdered every living soul at Bella Coola and they numbered twelve on his finger-ends (great excitement). There were Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, a daughter of 14 and a boy of 12, also Wallace, Stuart, and others whose names he did not remember. If a gunboat had been sent up to Bentinck Arm when the news of the first murder was received here, all these lives might have been saved. He would only add, that when he saw the mangled body of his poor foreman Brewster, he simply looked up to heaven for forbearance, but he looked to his countrymen for justice (thundering applause.)

Major Percy, 18th Royal Irish, said when first he heard of the massacre he had written to Governor Seymour, but had received no reply. He now tendered his services gratis to the Government.

The 1st resolution was then put and carried unanimously.

Mr. P.M. Backus in moving the 2nd resolution said he had little to say after the Rev. Mr. Garrett. He had only one feeling after reading the late accounts, and that was to give the boys now an opportunity to fight. He moved the following:

Resolved, — That in view of the fact that many of the victims of the recent Indian massacre belonged to this Colony, and that their families reside here, the colonists of Vancouver Island deem [4 illegible words] duty to request His Excellency the Governor [three illegible words] his Excellency the Governor of British Columbia the services of not less than 100 men, fully armed and equipped [to aid the?] British Columbia authorities in the [detection?] and capture of the murderers.

He [three illegible words] they caught one, they would hang him there and then. [Loud cheers.]

Mr. Hughes seconded. He advocated deeds not words. The Civil power was competent to deal with Indians; he hoped that the force would not be limited to 100, but that we should raise such a force as would show the savage that he could not trample upon the blood of white men. [Loud cheers]. We could not recall the dead but he trusted that we should avenge their death. [Cheers.] He spoke from experience of the difficulties of Indian warfare, and concluded by expressing hope that our volunteers should, when the time came muster 300 to 500 men. [Cheers.]

Mr. C.B. Young said a cold-blooded and atrocious crime had been committed but there was still a small voice within him which he valued more that the voice of those before him, and he asked them to bear with him. He had heard of justice to the Indians, but he considered that justice had not been meted out to the natives. He spoke of the non-appointment of any Indian agent, and spoke of the Hudson Bay rule, which he said would not do now. The speaker was proceeding to explain his views, when he was interrupted, and took his seat, but was again called forward, and related how the Indians had been turned off their potato patches at Bentinck Arm, and asked how the Saxon felt towards the Norman during the invasion. He said the Indians had feelings as well as ourselves, and should be treated with justice.

Rev. Dr. Evans made a few appropriate remarks in support of the resolution, believing from his experience of Indian character, that vigorous efforts were necessary to strike a heavy blow upon the cruel and dastardly perpetrators of the late crimes, though he at the same time thought that the Indians had not been fairly dealt with in the matter of compensation. But he advocated in this matter prompt and decisive measures; a drumhead court martial if necessary [hear, hear]

A voice – and hanging!

Yes and hanging on the spot too [cheers].

The chairman called upon Mr. Bing, who made a few remarks. He said if there was one thing more than another he detested, it was national sectarianism, and if such a thing were attempted, he would be one of the first to condemn it. He did not believe that the people of British Columbia would refuse the aid of such a valorous and chivalrous people as he had now the honor of addressing [laughter]. He would ask the meeting to throw aside the question of what he would call social sectarianism, and see simply whether the natives had acted as hostile natives, or as base murderers. Here were a party of adventurers who had gone into the wilderness to undertake a creditable work, and they had been cruelly and treacherously murdered. The speaker went on at some length, but was met a storm of hisses, groan and cries of sit down! Chair, chair! etc., and at last was persuaded to sit down.

Mr. DeCosmos wished to make a few remarks in regard to what had been said by the previous speaker in regard to jealousy between this colony and British Columbia. He did not believe that any such feeling existed on this point. (applause)

The Chairman before putting this resolution, said that he had called on the Governor before coming to this meeting, and His Excellency had told him to say that whatever the meeting did to-night would meet with his approbation and support and he would also say that he had 1000 stand of arms which he would place at their disposal, whatever they determined to do. (tremendous applause.)

Mr. Robt. Bishop said he had gone heart and hand in the movement to punish those miscreants who had committed the recent atrocities, and he felt sure nothing would be wanting on the part of the people of British Columbia to go heart and hand with the people of Victoria. He took exception to the remarks of a previous speaker (Mr. Young) who said “I have been among the Indians. I have had [illegible] muskets pointed at me, but I was not shot because I acted honestly by them.” Ergo, those who were shot had acted dishonestly (cries of no no!) He thought that was a fair conclusion to arrive at. One of the murdered men be knew personally, and he was as honest and straightforward a young man as ever breathed. He thought that if two ministers had considered the cause just and holy the meeting could have no compunctions and should act with promptitude. He would move the following resolution:

Resolved, — That an enrolment list of persons anxious to volunteer in the force be opened tomorrow for signature at the office of Selim Franklin & Co., the names to be submitted to the Governor; and that a Committee be appointed to wait on his Excellency with a copy of the foregoing resolutions, and with authority to confer with him on behalf of this meeting as to the means necessary to carry the said resolutions into effect; such Committee to be named by his Worship.

Mr. Alfred Elliott seconded the resolution, offering a few remarks respecting the desirability of keeping a Volunteer force in a proper and efficient state of organization.

Mr. E. Mallandaine advocated energetic action for the sake of humanity and policy. He thought the force should not be sent up unless it was sufficient to effect the purpose.

The Mayor said he had omitted to state that His Excellency said he had received nothing to warrant the supposition that the people of British Columbia would not cooperate heartily with the people of this Island (hear).

Rev. Archdeacon Wright threw some additional light on the recent expedition to Bute Inlet. He said also that he had heard for the first time on his arrival here, of discord between the people of the two colonies. He assured the meeting that the New Westminster people would gladly welcome aid from Victoria in such a cause (hear, hear.) Common selfishness would dictate it, if humanity did not (applause). He explained some of the difficulties which a party of volunteers would have to encounter in penetrating the country, and begged of them to consider the matter seriously before undertaking it; but if they did enter upon this undertaking, to carry it through manfully (applause).

The chairman, in accordance with the former resolution, then appointed the following gentlemen as a committee: A. DeCosmos, Esq., M.L.A., the Rev. Dr. Evans, Alfred Waddington, Esq., C.B. Young, Esq., Rev. A.C. Garrett; the Chairman and Secretary to be ex officio members.

After a vote of thanks was heartily given to, and acknowledged by the Mayor, the meeting quietly dispersed.

Source: "Emergency Meeting," Daily British Colonist, June 2, 1864.

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