Chief Roger William

Premier Christy Clark apologizes for 1864 Tsilhqot’in hangings

Chiefs descended from those who fought to keep gold seekers out hear Christy Clark exonerate them for any crime

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has made a formal apology in the legislature to the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the arrest and hanging of six of its war chiefs at Quesnel in 1864.

Tsilhqot’in tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse and vice-chair Chief Roger William visited the legislature Thursday to hear Premier Christy Clark make a formal statement on the historic events often referred to as the Chilcotin War or the Bute Inlet massacre.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation’s historical position that it was defending its sovereign territory was upheld in June by a Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing aboriginal title based on continuous occupation and control of the Nemiah Valley near Williams Lake.

In the summer of 1864, Tsilhqot’in members killed 14 construction workers employed by colonial official Alfred Waddington to build a road from Bute Inlet to provide faster access to the gold fields of the Cariboo region.

Alphonse said later that Tsilhqot’in warriors traditionally fought to protect their land, women and children.

“One of the things you don’t hear about very often, the final straw that led to that conflict was the abuse of our women by the roadbuilding crew,” he said.

After the violence, Tsilhqot’in chiefs were invited to Quesnel for what they believed were peace talks, but were arrested and eventually hanged.

Clark described in the legislature an offer by colonial gold commissioner William Cox to send the Tsilhqot’in chiefs a gift of tobacco and an invitation to discuss terms of peace, after settlers had been either killed or driven out of Tsilhqot’in territory.

“Chief Klatsassin and his men accepted this truce,” Clark said. “They rode into the camp to negotiate peace, and then in an unexpected act of betrayal they were arrested, imprisoned and tried for murder. On Oct. 26 five chiefs were hanged: Head War Chief Klatsassin, Chief Biyil, Chief Tilaghed, Chief Taqed and Chief Chayses. Their bodies are all buried in the city of Quesnel.

“The following summer Chief Ahan sought to pay reparations to compensate for any harm caused to innocents in the events of the Chilcotin War. He was also hanged. He was buried in New Westminister.

“So, Madame Speaker, I stand here today in this legislature, 150 years later, to say that the province of British Columbia is profoundly sorry for the wrongful arrest, trial and hanging of the six chiefs, and for the many wrongs inflicted by past governments,” Clark said.

Alphonse said the next step should be an admission by the federal government that the hanged chiefs did not commit any crime.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Need a doctor in Sooke? You’re may be in luck.

In anticipation of recruiting more doctors, medical clinic accepting applications for a waitlist

Two 15-year-olds arrested for mischief after windows broken at Colwood elementary school

Police arrest one suspect but were called back to the school for a second

Flying hot dog strikes Saanich pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

View Royal fire chief calls for realistic solutions to ‘mess’ at Thetis Lake

Emergency crews harassed while extinguishing brush fire, rescuing drunk 15-year-old during long weekend calls

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. scientist, 63, protests in trees set to be removed for Trans Mountain pipeline

Tim Takaro is reaching new heights as he tries to stall the pipeline expansion project in New Westminster

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Dinosaurs revived for animatronic auction in Langley

More than 500 robot dinosaurs, fossils, and exhibition gear are going on the block Aug. 6

B.C. paramedics responded to a record-breaking 2,700 overdose calls in July

Province pledges $10.5 million for expansion of overdose prevention response

Canada signs deals with Pfizer, Moderna to get doses of COVID-19 vaccines

Earlier in July both Pfizer and Moderna reported positive results from smaller trials

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

Cyclist in hospital after being hit by load of lumber hanging from truck on B.C. highway

A man is in hospital with broken ribs, punctured lung and a broken clavicle and scapula

Most Read