No. 8
29th January 1870
My Lord,
I have had the honor to receive Your Lordship's Despatch No 104 of the 15th November, 1869, transmitting copy of a Letter from the Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society relative to the condition of the IndiansinManuscript image in Vancouver Island.
2. If the statements made in Mr Sebright Green's Letter forwarded to Your Lordship by the Society were statements of facts they would be matter of great reproach to the Colonial Government; but I have satisfied myself that his representations are in some cases quite incorrect, and in others greatly exaggerated. As the circumstances alleged and referred to by Mr GreenwereManuscript image were antecedent to my acquaintance with the Colony I referred his Letter to Mr Trutch, the Commissioner of Lands and Works, and Surveyor General, for a Report; and I now enclose a Memorandum from that Officer upon the subject. From other sources of information I have every reason to believe Mr Trutch's Statements to be correct.
3. It is very difficult if not impossible to place IndianTribesManuscript image Tribes exactly in the same position as more civilized races but they do substantially enjoy equal protection from the Government; and I believe that those of them who are most in contact with the white population quite understand that this is the case. Complaints are frequently brought by the Indians in the neighbourhood of Victoria before the Police Magistrate against eachotherManuscript image other. And since my arrival here Indians have been the principal Witnesses in trials for Murder.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
A. Musgrave
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Herbert
Mr Greens statement as to the Govt neglect &c of the Indians in Vancouvers Island is to say the least of it very much exaggerated—on some points not true.
On one point however I do not think that the report is quite conclusive.
Mr Green says "hundreds of bodies were left on the rocks outside the harbour unburied."
Mr Trutch says "those who had died on the reserve & in the TownManuscript image of Victoria had been decently buried to the number of about 50—that being the number of newly made graves. We could not verify whether these represented all the deaths up to that time, but we certainly saw no dead bodies of Indians left unburied on the Reserve or elsewhere in the neighbourhood of the Town—nor did we learn that even one such dead body had been found on the rocks outside the harbour where Mr Green says hundreds of bodies were left unburied." And then a little further on he says "most of the Indians from the outlying Districts along the Coast fled from the CityManuscript image in their Canoes by the advice of the authorities—but under no complusion—at the outbreak of the contagion but unfortunately not in time to escape its ravages, for they carried the infection with them, & those attacked by the dreaded disease on their way homeward were left by their friends to perish on the shore untended." "Many Indians died in this way."
But send a copy of the despatch & the report to the Society as the result of the reference made to the Colony as to the correctness of Mr Green's statements—& perhaps add that Lord Granville trustsManuscript image the Society will give the same publicity to the despatch & Reports that they did to Mr Green's statements?
CC 11/3
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I should send the despatch & report in the terms suggested by Mr Cox. Mr Green is temperately & sufficiently answered. He is exactly the sort of man that the Ab. Protection Society delight to get hold of; not particularly binding himself to "the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth." I perceive that he is an Attorney.
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And as such, should as Sergeant Ballantyne observes, be always ready to make the statement which may be required.
With reference to the last paragraph of Mr Trutch's report, I should be inclined to observe to the Governor that missions to savages are frequently aided by state-funds, whatever the denomination of the Missionaries may happen to be, without it being considered that such aid is an infraction of the principle that the religious denominations of the citizens themselves shall not receive pecuniary support from the public revenues. Such missions are productive of social quite as much as religious benefit, & Govr Musgrave should bring the matter under the consideration of his Council.
Send to Society in terms of last par of Mr Cox's minute.
RGWH Mar 11/70
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I incline to the opinion of Mr Trutch. I see how we shall get into difficulties if we do not act upon it.
WM 12/3
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I agree with Mr Monsell.
G 14/3
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Joseph W. Trutch, Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works, 13 January 1870, memorandum refuting the charges in Sebright Green's report on the conditions of the Indians on Vancouver Island, with explanation. Transcribed below.
Other documents included in the file
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Herbert to F.W. Chesson, Secretary to the Aborigines Protection Society, 18 March 1870, forwarding copy of the despatch and report for information.
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
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Memorandum on a Letter treating of condition of the Indians in Vancouver Island addressed to the Secretary to the Aborigines Protection Society by Mr. Wm Sebright Green.

Mr. Green’s letter contains a series of allegations against the Government most of which are so entirely inconsistent with facts in the remainder the truth is so strangely distorted that his statement in this matter and the deductions drawn by him therefore urgently require to be met with most distinct and positive refutation.—
It is not true as he avers that inManuscript image in this Colony we have no Indian policy whatever that there are no Indian agents and that the only friends the Indians have in the Colony are the Missionaries. On the contrary for the past ten years at least during which I have resided in this Colony— the Government appear to me to have striven to the extent of its power to protect and befriend the native race and its declared policy has been that the Aborigines should in all material respects be on the same footing in the eye of the law as people of European descent. — and that they should be encouraged Manuscript imageto live amongst the white settlers in the country and so by their example be induced to adopt habits of civilization. In the more settled districts the Indians do now reside mostly in the settlements working for the white settlers— eating similar food and wearing similar clothing and having to a great extent relinquished their former wild primitive mode of life. In these respects the native race has undoubtedly derived very material benefit from their contact with white peoples whilst it is unhappily equally certain this it has thence contracted a large share of the vicesManuscript image vices, and attendant disease, which have ever been inevitably entailed upon by European races on the Indians of this continent amongst whom they have settled.
This policy towards the Indians has been consistently carried out so far as I am aware by successive Governors, and under it the Indians have assuredly as Mr. Green states been made amenable to English laws, exaggerated to write, as he has done, that the Indians have been suffered to shoot and kill one another within rifle-shot of the city withoutManuscript imagewithout interference — It may be and I believe is, a fact that during the past (10) years there have been instances of Indians having shot and killed one another in the outskirts of Victoria without having been apprehended but they certainly have not been suffered to do so. On the contrary had they been detected in the commission of such crimes they would most assuredly have been tried and punished according to English law. In fact Indians have been tried for this very crimes in Victoria and hanged; At the trial of all such offenders counsel have been assigned byManuscript image by the judge for their defence— unless specially provided by themselves or their friends — precisely as though they had been white men. For it must be pointed out that Mr Green is again positively incorrect in stating as he has done that the defense of Indians is a “mere matter of chance. There is no more of the element of chance in this respect as regards an Indian on his trial than would affect a white man similarly circumstanced— Money must of course always have its effect in securing the services of able counsel and in other ways when a man is under trial for any offence against Manuscript imagethe law— but in this respect a poor Indian is no worse off than a poor white man— indeed his is probably not so friendless— as the Judges in this Colony have always made it their special care that Indians on trial should be at least at no disadvantage on account of their being Indians—
The Magistrate too throughout the Colony are the specially constituted protectors of the Indians against injustice. They are in fact Indian Agents in all but the name and I am confident that they have so performed this well understood branch of their duty, that as full a measure Manuscript imageof protection and general advantage has been bestowed on the Indians through their agency by ^Government out of the pecuniary means at its disposal for this purpose as could have been afforded to them through the medium of a special Indian Department.
The Indians have in fact been held to the special wards of the Crown, and in the exercise of this guardianship Government has— in all cases where it has been considered desirable for the interests of the Indians— set apart such portions of the Crown Lands as were deemed proportionate to and amply Manuscript imagesufficient for the requirement of each tribe— and these Indian Reserves are held by Government in trust for the exclusive use and benefit of the Indians resident therein.
But the title of the Indians in the fee of the Public Lands or of any portion thereof has never been acknowledged by the Government — but on the contrary is distinctly denied. In no case has any special agreement been made with any of the tribes of the mainland for the extinction of their claims of possession— but these claims have been held to have been fully satisfied by securing to each tribe Manuscript imageas the progress of the settlement of ^the country seemed to require— the use of sufficient tracts of land for their wants for agricultural and pastoral purposes—
In 1850— and 1851 shortly after the first settlement at Victoria by the Hudson Bay Company at that time granted from the Crown of the whole of Vancouver Island with full executive powers of their Government their agent Governor Douglas made agreements with the various families of Indians then occupying the South Eastern portion of the Island for the relinquishment of their Manuscript imagepossessory claims in the district of country around Fort Victoria in consideration of certain blankets and other goods presented to them— But these presents were— as I understand— made for the purpose of securing friendly relations between those Indians and the settlement of Victoria then in its infancy— and certainly not in acknowledgement of any general title of the Indians to the lands they occupy.
In reference to the Cowichan settlement it appears from the records for I cannot speak of this matter from personal knowledge as I had no Manuscript imageofficial connection with Vancouver Island until the year before last that portions of the Cowichan Valley were surveyed by Government and sold in 1859. The settlement dates therefore from that year although the unoccupied lands in this district were not thrown open for preemption until 1862. When these lands were surveyed certain sections containing in all 4635 acres were set apart as Reserves for the use of the Cowichan Indians, and are now held in trust by Government for that purpose with the exception of about 500 acres which have been since withdrawn from this Manuscript imagereservation with the consent, as appears from the recorded correspondence in this office— of the Indians interested therein.
I can find no record of any promise having been made to these Indians that they should be paid for the lands in the Cowichan Valley which they may have laid claim to, nor can I learn that any such promise has ever been made— But it is probable that the Cowichans— when the white people began to settle among them may have expected and considered themselves entitled to receive for the lands which they held to be theirs Manuscript imagesimilar donations to those which had been presented to their neighbours the Saanich Indians years previously, as before mentioned— on their relinquishing their claims on the lands around their villages. It is further very likely that it was Governor Douglas’ intention that such gratuities should be bestowed on this tribe although no direct promise to that effect had been made. And in fact presents of agricultural instruments and tools were authorized to be made to them through this Department last year although no demands for payment for their lands had to my knowledge Manuscript imagebeen made by these Indians of Government.
It is unfortunately only too true that the law forbidding the sale of liquor to Indians although efficacious in the Country Districts especially on the Mainland— is virtually imperative in Victoria and its neighbourhood— as its provisions, strict as they are— are evaded by an organized system between white men who make the vile liquor for this trade— and the Indian traders who purchase it in quantities to the retailed to their Indian customers on the Reserve— Government has endeavoured to suppress this most baneful traffic Manuscript imagebut the profits are so considerable that those engaged in it in a wholesale way cannot be tempted to become informers and it is only occasionally that even the minor agents are apprehended and punished whilst the principal offenders, some of whole it is hinted are most respectable persons cannot be traced— It is easy for Mr Green to say he could point out at least a dozen men known to be engaged in this nefarious traffic but it would no doubt have been difficult for him to have proved this which he asserts as a known Manuscript imagefact, otherwise he would surely have evidenced his earnestness in the cause of those on whose behalf he writes by giving such information to the police as might have led to the punishment of these offenders.
Prostitution is another ~ acknowledged evil prevailing to an almost unlimited extent among the Indian women in the neighbourhood of Victoria, but the prevention of this vice is at least as difficult to effect here as in more civilized communities, and the only direct step forwards this result that appears open for Government to take would Manuscript imagebe to remove the entire Indian population to a distance of some miles from Victoria a course against which the Indians themselves and the majority of the white inhabitants would strenuously protest for a variety of reasons — but this course must certainly be adopted before any measures for the improvement in this respect of the moral and social condition of the Indian population can be carried into effect with any hope of success.
In direct refutation of the charges of utter neglect and inhuman treatment of the Indians at Victoria Manuscript imageduring the prevalence of smallpox in 1868, which Mr Green makes against Government is will be sufficient for me to recount what came under my own observation in reference to this subject.
Sometime during the autumn of that year whilst this disease was at its height Mr Young at that time Acting Colonial Secretary called my attention to a leading article in that mornings British Colonist — of which Mr Green was then editor— which contained most exaggerated representations of the horrible condition of the Indians on the Manuscript imageReserve at Victoria under this visitation, and charges against Government of having utterly failed to take any steps to prevent the spread of the full contagion— or to alleviate the sufferings of those attacked by it or even provide for the burial of its victims— statements in facts of a character and tenor identical with the charges which are so broadly made in the letter now under reference. Mr Young informed me that although he knew these statements had no foundation in fact — he was then going to investigate the matter Manuscript imagethoroughly, and would be glad if I would accompany him. Accordingly Mr Young, Mr Pemberton, Police Magistrate of Victoria— and myself went at once to the Indian Reserve and spent some hours in inspecting the Indian houses— hospital— grave-yard, etc. and in inquiring into the arrangements that had been made by the Police Magistrate with the assistance of the Rev. Mr Owens at that time resident on the Reserve in charge of the Church of England Indian Mission thereon, and who also joined us in our inspection.Manuscript image
We found but few— only three-cases of small-pox then existing on the Reserve and these patients were in care of an attendant, paid by the Government specially as an Indian Smallpox Hospital and under medical treatment also provided by Government. Those who had died on the Reserve and in the town of Victoria had been decently buried to a number of about 50, that being the number of newly made graves. We could not verify whether these represented all the deaths up to that time from Manuscript imagesmallpox among the Indians— but we certainly saw no dead bodies of Indians left unburied on the Reserve or elsewhere in the neighbourhood of the town— nor did we learn that even one such dead body had been found on the rocks outside the harbour where Mr Green says hundreds of bodies were left unburied. The shanties which had been occupied by the smallpox patients together with their clothes and bedding had been carefully burnt and from all that we saw on the Reserve— and from the information furnished to us by the Rev. Mr OwensMr Pemberton Manuscript imageand others were satisfied that all practicable measures were being taken for the proper care of the Indian sufferers from smallpox and for the prevention of the spread of the disease.
I will only add in confirmation of the correctness of the impressions we then formed to the above effect that this subject was brought under discussion during the last Session of the Legislature Council by the late Dr. Davie — then Member for Victoria District who— speaking of his own knowledge— as he had been unremitting in his professional Manuscript imageservices to Indians as well as to white persons afflicted with smallpox, and who, being one of the Medical Officers appointed by Government for this purpose had frequently visited this Reserve on such charitable errands— bore testimony to the real and unshrinking disregard of the danger of contagion which had been exhibited by those to whom the duty of taking care of the Indians during the late visitation had been entrusted, and especially by Sergeant Bowden— the Inspector of Police— whose service in this Manuscript imagerespect to solicited the Governor to acknowledge by some complimentary gratuity, and the rest of the Council having joined in this representation after a discussion in which the treatment of the Indians during the prevalence of the smallpox was fully debated and approved of— the Governor was pleased to comply with their request.
I have since ascertained that the deaths from smallpox among the Indians in 1868— as reported by the Police Magistrate amounted including children to eighty eight (88) and that about $2000 Two Manuscript imageThousand Dollars were expended by Government in the care of, and medical attendance on the sufferers and in the burial of the dead.
Unhappily indeed the disease was fatal enough in reality to the white as well as to the Indian population to need no such imaginative exaggeration as Mr Green from motive which I will not undertake to determine although they are I believe sufficiently apparent in the conclusion of his letter— that allowed his pen to picture.
Most of the Indians from the Manuscript imageoutlying District along the Coast fled from the City in their Canoes by the advice of the authorities but under no compulsion — at the first outbreak of the contagion, but unfortunately not in time to escape its ravages; for they carried the infection with them, and those attacked by the dreaded disease on their way homeward were left by their friends on the shore to perish untended.
Many Indians died in this way in addition to those whose deaths were registered but I am unable to perceive what measures Manuscript imageit was in the power of Government to take, other than those which were adopted for the protection and succour of the white and Indian population alike.
I will only remark further on the general subject of the condition of the Indians in the Colony that it is unhesitatingly acknowledged to be the peculiar responsibility of Government to use every endeavour to promote the civilization— education— and ultimate Christianization of the native races within our territory and that any practical scheme for advancing Manuscript imagethis object which it would be within the scope of the pecuniary ability of the Colony to care into effect would be adapted with alacrity—
At present this good work is almost exclusively in the hands of the Missionaries of various denominations and much has been effected by their labors in those Stations where the Indians under their tracking are not subject to those temptations which seem almost inevitably to overcome them when brought into close contact with the white population of the towns. But Manuscript imageGovernment although giving cordially to these Missions every countenance and moral support in its power has found it impracticable to grant them any pecuniary aid from the consideration that by so doing it would be involved in the insidious position of appearing to give special state aid to particular religious bodies.
13th January 1870
Musgrave, Anthony to Leveson-Gower, Granville George 29 January 1870, CO 60:38, no. 2542, 60. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria.

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