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
for 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
degree 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,
the 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
friends, 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
a 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
and 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
105 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
consequently 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
the 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. 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
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
affording 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
capacity 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
position 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
Indians for that purpose.  
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
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 the 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.  
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.  
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.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • 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
  • Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 2, 22 July 1859.  
  • 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
  • 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.  
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Lytton, 25 May 1859, National Archives of the UK, 6949, CO 305/10. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed 17 November 2018. 

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