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

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting, are among the provincial leaders in getting in their votes early, with some 20 per cent (10,174) of eligible voters have already cast their ballots. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

Shay Baker, 17, hasn’t been seen or heard from since Oct. 21 and is wanted on outstanding warrants. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police searching for high-risk missing youth

Shay Baker, 17, is wanted on outstanding warrants

Plastic Ocean by Oak Bay resident Gabriela Hirt is in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Gabriela Hirt/cropped to fit)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

The M’akola Housing Society is looking to build two new residences in Sooke to help provide affordable accommodation for local Indigenous people. The projects were granted nearly $1.1 million toward their construction through the Regional Housing Trust Fund. (Photo courtesy M’Akola Housing Society)
Regional Housing First Program strikes another chord in Greater Victoria

Affordable housing partnership grants will help house over 100 people on income assistance

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read