No. 24
20th October 1856
Having for some months past been engaged in important investigations respecting the aboriginal population of Vancouvers Island, I have succeeded in completing a census of the Native Tribes, and in ascertaining with something like accuracy their relative numbers and places of habitation, which I do myself theManuscript imagethe honor of transmitting herewith for the information of Her Majesty's Government.
2. The Census gives a total population of 25,873 souls within the limits of this Colony without including the inhabitants of the continental coast of America, immediately opposite Vancouver's Island, who are connected by intermarriages with the Insular Tribes, and whose numbers may be estimated at 8,000 souls; we have therefore a total aboriginal population equal to 33,873 souls in the Colony, and its immediate vicinity.
3. There is a remarkable uniformity in the domestic habits of those Tribes, they have each a fixed place of residence, marked by large dwelling houses, rudely though strongly constructed, of rough plank, where they reside for the greater part ofManuscript imageof the year, and only leave for the purpose of paying temporary visits to other parts of the coast, where fish, game, and wild fruits are at particular seasons found in greater abundance than at their usual places of abode.
4. They are hospitable, and exceedingly punctilious in their mutual intercourse, grateful for acts of kindess, and never fail to revenge an injury. Though generally dishonest, they are seldom known to violate a trust. They have all some rude idea of a Great first cause, and an intuitive sense of moral good and evil, yet not having been trained in the fear of God, their minds have no ruling principle except the impulse of the moment.
5. Some of those Tribes are yet in a very rude state, but those inhabitingManuscript imageinhabiting Nanaimo, Victoria and Cowegin Districts who have frequent intercourse with the whites, are becoming domesticated and have turned their attention to the cultivation of the potatoe, and other agricultural products, which has the effect of softening their character, and giving them more settled habits.
6. As the safety and prosperity of the Colony depends more than upon any other cause, on our maintaining a good understanding with the native Tribes, I have used every possible means to command their respect and conciliate their friendship by protecting their rights and giving them redress, in all cases where they have suffered wrong, and with equal handed justice severely, punishing their own delinquencies.
7. The management ofManuscript imageof the Natives is an object which must always have strong claims upon the attention of the Government of this Colony, as no probable event can ever prove more disastrous to the settlements than collisions with the natives. Fortunately for the whites the powerful Tribes of Vancouver's Island so formidable alike for their numbers and resolute bearing, have no bond of common interest, they are divided in their views and regard each other with jealousy and distrust. By retaining their confidence and taking advantage of their mutual animosities we may therefore always manage to prevent extensive combinations of the Tribes for the purpose of assailing the settlements.
8. They have been remarkably quiet and well conducted in every part of the Colony since my general reportManuscript imagereport of last year. A vast number of roving Indians from almost every part of the coast, between Vancouvers Island and the 60th degree of north latitude, have at various times during the season visited the Colony, and their presence produced a not unreasonable degree of alarm among the white inhabitants, but we got rid of those dangerous visitors without any actual breach of the peace.
9. The only overt acts of hostility by the natives which occurred this year were promptly avenged. The sufferer in one instance was Peter Cornelius, a European, but I rather think not a British subject, living singly among the native Tribes of the west coast of the Island, who was treacherously murdered last winter, through the act or agency of the Chief man of the village where he resided and who had promised toManuscript imageto aid his pursuits and protect him from danger. Retribution soon overtook the perfidious Chief, who was shortly afterwards captured and put to death, by the people of a neighbouring Tribe.
10. The only other case was the attempt to shoot Thomas Williams at Cowegin, which the opportune presence of Her Majesty's ships enabled me to punish almost immediately after the offense was committed.
11. I trust those striking examples will have the effect of deterring other parties from the commission of crime.
I will not venture upon any further remarks at present.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient, humble Servant
James Douglas

The Right Honble Henry Labouchere Esqre
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Acknowledge. The return of the Indian population might be interesting to the Registrar General?
VJ 30 Decr
I do not see that this interesting report says anything of the military strength of the natives. Their numerical force is much greater than I had supposed, & must form an important item for consideration in any future plans respecting the settlement of this colony.
HM D 30
JB 31 Dr
Thank the Govr for this interesting account of the Indian population.
HL 31
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Labouchere to Douglas, No. 3, 15 January 1857.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Census of the Indigenous population of Vancouver Island, 1856.