Chief Roger William

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

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Nic Hume and his fellow paramedic stopped to rescue the victim of an Oak Bay hit-and-run – a duck – at the end of their shift Thursday morning. (Nic Hume/Facebook)
Paramedics rescue unusual patient after Oak Bay hit-and-run

A female duck was rescued while a male one was deceased on scene

Craigdarroch Care Home has put in place enhanced control measures after Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak. (Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at second Victoria long-term care home

Two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at Craigdarroch Care Home

Tina Starkey with her seven-month-old puppy Sugar on the E&N Trail in Esquimalt. Starkey now carries a small personal alarm device, her thumb on the button. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Encounters leave Vic West woman concerned for her safety

The 50-year-old wants self defence training, says she’s not alone

An early morning fire along Cameron Street has left two cats dead and two tenants homeless. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Early morning fire guts Victoria house, leaves 2 cats dead

Victoria Fire Department called out shortly before 2 a.m.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

As the snow in Manning Park melts, searchers are able to get a little farther each day. Photo submitted
Family resumes search for son missing in B.C.’s Manning park since October

‘This is our child, and we don’t give up on our children,’ said mother of Jordan, Josie Naterer

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada buys 65M Pfizer booster shots for protection against COVID-19 variants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal with Pfizer includes options to add 30 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, and an option for 60 million doses in 2024

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

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

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground in Metro Vancouver

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Most Read