John Bright
On February 4th, 1869, the John Bright sailed out of Admiralty Inlet with a cargo of lumber and struck a reef near Estevan Point while caught in a gale.1 Twelve of the twenty-two people on board likely drowned; however, the ten that made it to shore were allegedly shot, and their bodies were hacked to pieces and mutilated by a number of Hesquiat First Nations individuals, who also plundered the vessel’s wreck.2
The master of the schooner Surprise—not to be confused with the side-wheel steamer Surprise—carried news of the act back to Victoria, where the local newspapers and public opinion demanded retribution.3 Governor Seymour was reluctant to act immediately and waited three months before he finally sent the HMS Sparrowhawk to investigate, after the Victoria Evening News accused Seymour of disgraceful and criminal neglect.4
The crew of the HMS Sparrowhawk discovered the remains of at least eight individuals, and the vessel’s surgeon determined that murder had indeed occurred in several cases.5 The destruction of a number of houses and canoes compelled the surrender of two culprits—Katkinna, a chief who confessed to the crime, and John Anietsachist, who continually claimed to be innocent.6 Both were convicted of murder at court in Victoria, and were subsequently executed in the presence of their entire tribe back at Hesquiat.7
  • 1. Barry M. Gough, Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), 125.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid., 126.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid., 126-127.
  • 7. Ibid., 127.
Mentions of this vessel in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. John Bright. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/john_bright.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)