No. 18
25 May 1859
The settlers in the Districts of East and West Saanitch having entered complaints against certain of the Natives of that quarter for shooting, and otherwise destroying, some five or six head of their domestic cattle; I found it necessary forManuscript imagefor the repression of such outrages to institute immediate proceedings against the Natives Charged with those offences, and after some difficulty and an abortive attempt on their part, at resistance, which was promptly quelled by the Officers of Justice without any more serious consequences than a bloodless affray, the parties were taken into custody by Mr Sheriff Heaton, who displayed a highly commendable degreeManuscript imagedegree of firmness, temper, and good judgment on the occasion.
2. He was ably supported by Lieut. Cooper of the Supernumerary Force of Royal Marines, who with several privates of the same Corps, came forward very handsomely and volunteered for that service.
But must not the Settlers learn that they must rely entirely on the Civil force for putting down civil affrays? The Colonists will of course invoke the aid of Marines or Queen's Ships & Troops if they can attain it. It is however a difficult point how to act; for if a powerful tribe arrives, & kills English Settlers, whilst there is military assistance at hand which the Governor is [barred?] from using the Govt at home may be reproached for restricting [four or five words cut off file]. Perhaps it wd be safest always to give the Governor a discretionary permission [in such?] cases.
3. Captain Hornby also proceeded at my request, to the scene of action, with Her Majestys ship "Tribune", and though happily his active interference was not needed, theManuscript imagethe very appearance of a large military force in the vicinity of Saanitch, had a most salutary effect on the minds of the Natives.
4. Two only of the Natives brought to trial were convicted of the offences charged against them and they were sentenced respectively to periods of 30 days imprisonment with hard labor and as no offence could be proved against the others they were all discharged to the great delight of their friendsManuscript imagefriends, who expressed their unqualified wonder and satisfaction at the fair and impartial treatment of their countrymen while on trial.
5. The Native tribes in this neighbourhood continue quiet and well disposed though much excitement prevails among the Cowitchen Tribes in consequence of a detailed Survey of the Cowitchen Valley which is now being executed by the Colonial Surveyor of Vancouver Island. There is therefore aManuscript imagea general belief among the "Cowitchens" that their lands are to be immediately sold and occupied by white settlers, an impression which it is difficult to remove and that gives rise to much contention amongst themselves about the disposal of their lands; one party being in favour of a surrender of a part of their country for settlement; while another party comprising nearly all the younger men of the Tribe strongly oppose that measure andManuscript imageand wish to retain possession of the whole country in their own hands, and I anticipate much trouble in the adjustment of those disputes before the land can be acquired for settlement.
6. The coast of Vancouvers Island has been lately visited by large numbers of Savages from Queen Charlottes Island, the Northern coasts of British Columbia, and Russian America, the number of arrivals from those distant places, comprising 105Manuscript image105 large canoes and about 1500 persons including women and children.
7. The presence in the settlement of these barbarians, is troublesome and disagreable though in smaller numbers, they might be useful to the white settlers, who would find some mitigation of the evil in the abundance of cheap labour thus provided for the Colony; as the case is, their numbers far exceed the demand for labour, and consequentlyManuscript imageconsequently the great majority can find no employment, and become mischievous from the united effects of idleness and poverty.
8. A serious affray occurred on the 14th instant, between the Hyda's (Queen Charlotte Island Indians) and the Chimseyans (Fort Simpson people) at their encampment on the North side of Victoria. These tribes in their own country are at open war with each other, and keep theManuscript imagethe peace while here, only from respect to our Laws; on the occasion in question, their national animosity was stimulated by a personal quarrel between two of their most powerful chiefs. Both parties flew to arms and assailed each other with the ferocity of tigers, and in a few minutes eight or ten of the combatants were killed or wounded.
9.Manuscript image9. The further destruction of life was prevented by the timely arrival of Mr Commissioner Pemberton with the Victoria Police, who succeeded in putting an end to the affray and in dispersing the excited crowd of combatants. A copy of the Report of his proceedings on that occasion is herewith forwarded for your information. His suggestion for disarming those Indians is a wise precaution, but practically impossibleManuscript imageimpossible.
10. I have in preference decided on removing them from the Colony having already despatched on their return to Queen Charlottes Island, about one fourth of the most dangerous of their number, and I will in due time hereafter require the others to take the same course.
11. I deeply regret however, that there are no means at my disposal of affordingManuscript imageaffording them employment in the Colony, either in making roads, or otherwise opening the country for settlement, as it is hardly creditable to the civilization of the nineteenth century, that so essential an element of wealth, as labour of the cheapest description, should be, in a manner, banished
Why? [Two or three words illegible]?
from the Colony.
12. It may also interest the Christian Philanthropist to learn that the employment of Indians in any menial capacityManuscript imagecapacity produces an immediate change in their general habits: In personal cleanliness, sobriety, and application the improvement is striking, while association with the followers of a better system, softens and tempers the character of the whole man, confirms the influence of civilization, and prepares their mind for the reception of Christian knowledge; while a capacity for labour so acquired, places them above want and in a favourable positionManuscript imageposition for procuring all the necessaries, suitable to their condition in life.
13. Several hundred Indians might be employed to great advantage in opening roads in British Columbia; and should the Queensborough Land sales, which are to take place on the 1st June next, prove as productive of revenue, as expected, I will probably authorise the Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works to raise a working corps of IndiansManuscript imageIndians for that purpose.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
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ABd 11 July
Mr Fortescue
Mr Blackwood's remarks on the margin of this desp. raise a question of importance, but I own it seems to me that we cannot, in the present state of things, find any fault with the employment of such government force as is at hand, for Manuscript imagethe suppression of Indian trouble in Vanc. I. If this was to be avoided, it should have been thought of before, ere the step was taken of establishing a British colony on an island peopled at the least by 15 or 20,000 of the most energetic of savages. An infant colony may perhaps make head against such neighbours, but how? Only as the New Englanders did in their early days, by selling their lives dearly, returning massacre for massacre, and, if requisite, treachery for treachery. If we want to avoid all this, occasional use of the Queen's naval & military force, which commonly effects more by shew than even by execution, is the only course I know of. The last part of Governor Douglas's despatch is interesting & important, coming from one so familiar with the subject as himself, though I am not certain that I apprehend the practical purpose of all he says.
HM July 11
Duke of Newcastle
I sh. be inclined to tell Govr Douglas, that there did not appear to be sufficient cause, in this case, for the use of the Queen's forces—& to recommend him to reserve such use for greater occasions. Otherwise the Civil force will not be respected by the Natives.
CF 11
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I am not disposed to condemn the conduct of the Govr in this particular case as Mr Fortescue proposes. I should confine any remarks to a general caution not to bring the Naval & Military force into service upon such occasions except where the Civil force required support, and then always to bring them out in such strength as to ensure immediate success.
N 13
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Augustus F. Pemberton, Commissioner of Police, to William A.G. Young, Acting Colonial Secretary, 15 May 1859, reporting the disturbance between Indigenous groups and his proceedings upon his arrival at the scene.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 2, 22 July 1859.
Minutes by CO staff
It would not be amiss, I think, to send copies of this correspce to the War Office, & through that Dt to the Admy, that it may be known there that occasions arise when it is, in the opinion of the local Authorities, unavoidable to have recourse to the Military & Naval power. Draft to the War Office is annexed for consideration.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to Under-Secretary, War Office, 27 July 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch and draft reply, and requesting that they be communicated to the Admiralty.
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
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In 6949/59
Victoria V.I.
15th May 1859

I have the honor to report for the information of His Excellency the Governor that a serious disturbance took place yesterday amongst the Northern Indians at present sojourning here.
The Queen Charlotte Islanders (Hyders & Fort Simpson Indians were the principal tribes engaged.
The following is a statement of the result.
  1. Hyder 4 men Killed
  2. 2 Women Killed
  3. “ 6 Killed
  4. 3 men wounded badly
  5. Total 9 Killed and wounded

  1. Fort Simpson 2 Men wounded
  2. 1 Woman wounded
  3. Total 3 wounded none killed

I have not yet ascertained correctly the cause of dispute, but I was told it commenced between two individuals of the hostile tribes; others joined and at last the whole body of Indianswere in Manuscript imagewere in arms. The fight commenced about oClock P.M. Almost immediately afterwards I was informed of it & proceeded to the spot with all the police I could then muster.
Upon reaching the ground I found the white people in great danger from the random shots of the Indians. Who were firing in a skirmishing manner from different points amongst the stumps and brushwood, & also from the several camps, thereafter falling in every direction. One white man was wounded in the arm.
The police warned the white population to keep back: and then hastening forward to the respective camps of the belligerent, in a short time induced them to give over firing. At this time I saw three Hyder badly wounded. One Fort Simpson Indian also had received a ball in his leg. We then proceeded to the other side of Rock Bay from whence nine Fort Simpson Indians were firing directly into the centre of the Hyder Camp on the opposite bank of the bay: and being sheltered by large trees they were able to do great executionManuscript imageexecution without receiving much injury themselves. I ordered these men to cease firing and brought them back to their camp. Shortly afterwards I arranged with the respective Chiefs to defer their quarrel till Monday, on which day they have promised to attend at the police court that inquiry into the matter may be instituted.
I did not deem it prudent to make any arrests with a small police force— say 10 men— armed only with batons, where there were some 2000 excited Indians, equipped with every kind of offensive weapon— blunderbusses, long & short muskets, single and double muskets, single and double barrelled rifles, fowling pieces; revolvers & pistols from every nation: pikes, swords, bayonets, dirks, daggars, and knives of every form size & shape. They are also said to have in their possession a [???] brass cannon.
I have to observe that many complaints have lately been made that the Indians draw their knives and pull out their pistols upon the slightest provocation. I would therefore respectfully suggest the propriety of disarmingManuscript imagedisarming them.
To disarm the Indians, the Northern only it would be necessary to place cannon on the heights-commanding their camps & surround them in such manner with soldiery as the military and naval authorities, in conjunction with his Excellency the Governor might think fit. If such a display as this were made I have little doubt they would give up their arrows on demand; receiving cards with numbers on them, duplicates of which should be written on paper & stuck with gum on each musket so as it was handed to the police to be stored in one of the new cells at the police barrack, until the Indians left Victoria or were towed away towards their homes. Then each article should be returned to its owner, on production of the ticket before handed to him by the police.
If some such steps as these are not taken without delay, there will no doubt be a great deal of blood shed; this being the second time since the arrival of the Queen Charlotte Indians that the police have had to interfere. AndManuscript imageAnd had we not come up yesterday at the time we did, the havoc would have been very great as we found the Belbella & Sticken tribes preparing to join the dispute with knives, in a hand to hand encounter.
The importance of the subject will plead my excuse for writing on Sunday. I apprehend further disturbance tomorrow.
I have the honor to remain
Your most Obt humble Servt
[???]Augustus F. Pemberton
Commissioner of Police
William A.G. Young Esqr
Sitting Colonial Scay.