Klatsassin
d. 1864-10-26
Klatsassin was a powerful chief of the Tsilhqot'in First Nations.1 He is described as being tall, stout, with dark brown hair, and a large nose.2
Klatsassin was a purported instigator of a conflict between Indigenous peoples and a road crew at Bute Inlet and tried for his involvement in the murder of Waddington’s road crew, as well as the death of Alex Macdonald in 1864.3 He attacked the European workers in the area due to prior mistreatment of his tribe, including the rape of the women, as well as for slavery of Tsilhqot'in by Waddington. Klatsassin also lamented the impact of smallpox on his people, which killed nearly half their population.4 Klatsassin believed that Alex Macdonald brought smallpox to the Benshee area and blamed him for the mistreatment of his kin.5 It is for these reasons, as stated by Ahan’s father, that he had killed the white men at Bute Inlet, and was resolved to kill all the white men he could find.6
After the attack on the road crew, Klatsassin and his allies journeyed to Punstseen to kill Mr. Manning, a prominent European settler in the area.7 They murdered Manning, burnt down his buildings, and destroyed his crops.8 Klatsassin then recruited more members from surrounding tribes, gaining support from Teloot, and Ahan, after threatening them with death if they refused to take part.9 They were successful in locating Alex Macdonald who had been in the area. After being warned by Ahan’s father of the upcoming attack, MacDonald joined a pack train to return to Bella Coola.10 On the way back, Klatsassin had word of their journey and was successful in ambushing Macdonald’s party.11 This attack resulted in the death of Higgins, Macdonald, MacDonald's horse, and all footmen.12 After the attack, Klatsassin claimed the goods from the murdered group and divided them amongst his followers.13
After the murder of the Waddington road crew at Bute Inlet, Mr. Manning, and Alex Macdonald’s party. Two expeditions, lead by Mr. Brew and Mr. Cox were sent to the area to arrest the Tsilhqot'in who were involved in the conflict. Mr. Cox and Klatsassin entered negotiations which resulted in Klatsassin and seven of his followers arriving at Mr. Cox’s camp at the old Hudson’s Bay Fort on Chilko Lake at half after eight in the morning.14 Klatsassin was given the impression that the men would establish a peaceful discussion to end violence and mistreatment.15 The men shared tobacco and believed they were safe since Klatsassin and his followers learned about the sacredness of the pipe of peace.16 Instead the Tsilhqot'in men were forced into a secured building, guarded by the Chief Constable and later placed on the steamer Enterprise and taken to Quesnelmouth.17 Due to these circumstances, Judge Begbie believed that Klatsassin had been manipulated into meeting Mr. Cox and was arrested upon unfair grounds, and described Mr. Cox as having two tongues.18 Begbie believed that the manipulation may have stemmed from Chief Alexis who acted as the interpreter for Mr. Cox and was the chief of a neighbouring tribe. Begbie also believed that Alexis had everything to gain from the arrest of Klatsassin and his followers. Judge Begbie interviewed Klatsassin after his arrival in Quesnelmouth, and asked Klatsassin if he would have entered Mr. Cox's camp knowing the outcome, Klatsassin replied with a Definitive No.19
At trial, Klatsassin was charged with organizing and participation in murder and violence against the white settlers in the area. Upon agreement, he was permitted to stand on the scaffold, adjust the rope and jump on his own terms, but at the last moment he prefered to to be treated the same as the others.20 Judge Begbie commented that it seems horrible to hang five men at once, especially under the circumstances of the capitulation. Yet the blood of twenty-one whites calls for retribution.21 In Quesnelmouth, on Wednesday 26 October 1864, at seven in the morning, Klatsassin, Teloot, Tappitt, Kiddaki, Tansaki, and Tatchasla were executed for their participation in the Bute Inlet conflict.22
Biographical information is not yet available for this person.
Mentions of this person in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. Klatsassin. 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/klatsassin.html.

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