No. 34
7 July 1860
Since my return from British Columbia to this Colony, I have been closely and anxiously
engaged
engaged in the settlement and regulation of Indian affairs.  
2. Large numbers of Indians from almost every Tribe inhabiting the northern coasts of British Columbia have been gradually collecting around this place, and fresh detachments of those people are continually arriving from their distant homes, so
that
that at this moment there are upwards of 2000 of those savages congregated on a part of the Indian reserve assigned for their use, in the close vicinity of Victoria.  
3. From their formidable numbers and social habits, they have become a positive nuisance, and a cause of alarm to the inhabitants of the Colony.  
4. Passionately
4. Passionately fond of ardent spirits, they indulge in their use to excess, whenever the means of intoxication are within their reach, and on those occasions their quarters exhibit scenes of riot, disorder, and outrage, disgraceful to a civilized Country.  
5. When not under the influence of intoxication they
are
are quiet and well conducted, make good servants, and by them is executed a large proportion of the menial, agricultural, and shipping labour of the Colony.  
Besides their value as labourers they are of value commercially as consumers of food and clothing and
could
could they be restrained from excesses, which I regret to add, notwithstanding the severe enactments enforced against vendors of spiritous liquors, it has been found impossible to prevent, they would on the whole form a not undesirable population.  
6. Fortunately, in some respects for
the
the Colony, those powerful Tribes are divided among themselves, and entertain for each other the most cordial feelings of hatred and contempt.  
They take no pains to conceal those feelings and it is only the terrors of the Law which even here restrains their mutual animosity, and prevents them from attacking
each
each other and settling their feuds by open warfare.  
7. Occasionally, in moments of excitement, those restraints are forgotten. Within the last month, two startling crimes have been committed. One by a Hydah Chief named "Captain John," who treacherously shot the Chief of the Tongass
Tribe
Tribe as he was retiring from a festive meeting to which he had been invited by the former, and a principal Quakualk chief was slain by some people of the Songass Tribe.  
8. In consequence of these acts, I determined on removing from the confined encampment they have hitherto occupied, the several Tribes living
there
there and who, from want of space, were unavoidably brought into contact with each other, to another spot, where to each Tribe is to be assigned a distinct and separate dwelling place.  
9. Before taking that step I summoned the chief men of the several Tribes to meet me in conference, and after reproving them for the enormity
of
of their conduct, I spoke to them long and seriously on various subjects, explanatory of the nature of our Laws, and the punishment which it was my painful duty to inflict on all persons guilty of crimes. I told them that they must not seek redress according to their own barbarous customs, but that in all cases
of
of wrong they must appeal to the Law for protection and redress, and I concluded by telling them that they must decide on taking one of two courses, either to submit, implicitly, to the rules that I proposed to establish for their Government, or to leave the Colony, and return immediately to their own homes.  
They, with one accord
declared
declared their willingness to submit to any form of government I chose to prescribe, provided they were not expelled from, and were allowed to remain within the Colony.  
10. After much anxious deliberation on the subject of the Indian question, it appeared to me that the presence of the Northern Tribes in
this
this Colony is one of those inevitable evils from which there is no way of escape.  
Their removal, for example, by persuasive and gentle means, would fail of effect, and result in their return to the Colony in numbers as great as before, while their forcible ejection, besides the injustice and cruelty of that course,
would
would surely lead to collision and bloodshed, incense the whole Northern Indian population, and probably end in hostile attacks on the defenceless settlements of this Colony and British Columbia.  
I therefore considered it advisable to deal with the subject as a question of the gravest importance, demanding the adoption of a wise,
firm
firm and vigorous policy in preference to either of the plans of removal suggested, which are at best expedients full of danger, and incapable of producing any lasting good.  
11. It appears to me not impossible to combine the two important objects of improving the habits and condition of those Indians, and rendering
them
them at the same time useful to the Colony.  
12. I have long cherished the hope of being able to organize the Indian Tribes into Communities, and to maintain peace and enforce the laws by means of native officers selected from themselves. That useful plan, which would put an end to Indian wars, and for ever relieve the Colony
from
from the danger of Indian outrages, I have hitherto been unable to undertake for want of the small sum of money necessary in the first instance, to defray the charge for the support of a police force.  
13. I propose now, in this emergency, to attempt a modification of that plan
with
with the Northern Indians, that is to say, I propose to form the different Tribes into distinct bodies: to allot to each a separate peace [place] of encampment: to require them to put up decent houses for their dwellings: to pay a small rental for the use of the land occupied: and to impose a moderate poll tax for the support
of
of a native police force, trained to execute writs, to apprehend offenders, and under the superintendence of the Chief Commissioner of Police to attend generally to the peace and good government of the camp.  
14. The Chief difficulty I apprehend in carrying out the plan is the inability in many cases of the Indians to pay the
proposed
proposed tax, we must therefore be lenient with them at first.  
15. The removal of the Indians to their new quarters, in furtherance of my design, was effected without difficulty.  
16. The following morning a complaint was made by the master and passengers of the Schooner "Royal Charley," that several shots had been fired at
them
them as the vessel was passing the Hydah Camp.  
17. The Commissioner of Police was thereupon immediately despatched to seize the offenders, and as a precautionary measure, a military force, Kindly furnished at my request, by Rear Admiral Baynes, was ready to support him if necessary.  
18. The Hydah's
who
who are the most ignorant, barbarous, and ungovernable of all the Northern races, having turned out armed on the approach of the Police, and made a shew of resistance I gave orders that in addition to the arrest of the offenders the whole Tribe should be disarmed, an order which was promptly carried into effect, by the
seizure
seizure of all the Fire arms in their possession.  
19. Those who had fired on the "Royal Charley" were publicly whipped in the presence of the whole Tribe, and afterwards conveyed to Jail for a term of imprisonment, with hard labour.  
20. The Tongass people soon after entered a complaint
against
against "Captain John" for the murder of their chief, and he with his brother, an accomplice in the crime, was accordingly taken into custody. Neither of them made any resistance, but quietly surrendered on the exhibition of the warrants, and walked from their own quarters to the police office.  
They were, after
examination,
examination, committed to Jail for further inquiry. While being searched preparatory to being locked up, they suddenly drew their knives and furiously assaulted the officers in charge of them, who, after receiving several severe wounds, were compelled, in order to save their own lives, to shoot both the prisoners dead
on
on the spot: a fate which their manifold crimes had long merited; though I sincerely regret the manner in which it happened.  
21. In pursuance of the general plan of government which I have resolved to carry out, an armed Boat, Kindly furnished at my request, by Rear Admiral Baynes, is kept cruizing night
and
and day at the entrance of Fort Victoria Harbour, and the officer in command has orders to intercept all Northern Canoes and to require the entire surrender of all the fire arms on board, before being permitted to proceed into the Harbour.  
A receipt is given for the arms so surrendered, and they will be returned to their owners upon quitting the Colony.  
My
My object in this regulation is to impress upon the minds of the Indians a respect for order, and to inspire them with confidence in the protection afforded by the Law, so that they will learn to trust to it alone for safety, and not to their own devices, while residing within the precincts of the Colony.  
22. The whole of the Indians in the neighbourhood are at present perfectly quiet
and
and tractable, and I hope that the system adopted may result in their lasting improvement.  
23.Mr Duncan whose labours as a Missionary at Fort Simpson, I have already had the honor of bringing to the notice of your Grace, has cheerfully placed himself at my disposal in carrying out the before mentioned arrangements, and has been
of
of the utmost assistance to me.  
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Elliot
 
VJ
23 Aug
Mr Fortescue
Mr Douglas as an old Hudson's Bay Company's servant, ought to be a judge of the management of Indians. I should acke his despatch and express a hope that the measures which he has set in operation with a view of preserving good order among the Indians may be successful.  
TFE
25 Augt
I wd add that there cd be no doubt of the propriety of disarming such a population.  
The Govr seems well able to deal with Indians.  
CF
28
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft reply, Fortescue to Douglas, No. 33, 8 September 1860.  
 
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Newcastle, 7 July 1860, National Archives of the UK, 8319, CO 305/14. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. http://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/getDoc.htm?id=V60034.scx. Accessed 21 September 2017. 

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