In August 1864, a group of 10 Ahousat First Nations individuals allegedly pillaged and [burned] the Kingfisher, a sloop involved in seal oil trade near the mouth of Matilda Creek, and murdered its crew.1
When news of the Kingfisher's fate reached Victoria, Rear-Admiral Denman sent the Devastation to investigate—the vessel arrived at Matilda Creek to find 195 Ahousat First Nations armed for battle.2
The events that would ensue, later called the “Ahousat Incident”, would result in, according to Gough, the Royal Navy's most extensive punishment [on the north west coast].3 In total, the Royal Navy destroyed nine villages and 64 canoes; as well, at least 15 First Nations individuals were killed in the struggle.4
However, Chief Justice David Cameron acquitted the individuals arrested because he believed that he was not able to use the testimony of First Nations witnesses.5 Cameron, who was often under scrutiny as chief justice because of his lack of legal training, overlooked an 1843 imperial statute that allowed such evidence with crown consent.6
  • 1. Barry M. Gough, Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), 114-115.
  • 2. Ibid., 113-114.
  • 3. Ibid., 114.
  • 4. Ibid., 121.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
Mentions of this vessel in the documents