We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

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Origin of the Massacre

Daily Chronicle, May 29, 1864.

The Chilcoaten Indians who committed the crime were chiefly new faces, who had come down in the early spring this year, and were seen at the head of the Inlet for the first time. The intention of Klattasen, the most influential amongst them, and the chief instigator, had been, however, to return to Benchee Lake by the Memeya and Bridge Rivers; he was only waiting, as he said, for Mr. Waddington’s arrival, after whom he inquired anxiously every day, and whether he would bring many men and provisions with him. He said he wanted him to get back his daughter for him from the Euclataws. In the meanwhile his eldest boy, Pierre, a lad of fifteen, went up with the packers on Wednesday, April 20th, to the Ferry where he had a long talk with the Chilcoatens of the upper camp, and returned in the morning of Friday the 23d, when his father Klattasen immediately changed his mind, as he told the packers on the Saturday morning. He would now give a canoe, six blankets, and two muskets, for his daughter, and started on Tuesday morning; April 26th, for the Ferry, with his young Indians, his two sons and daughters and three squaws, slept at the half-way house or Slough Camp, slept again near Boulder Creek, and reached the Ferry on Thursday morning, about 9 a.m. He probably murdered Smith, the Ferryman, the same evening.

There were about two tons of provisions at the Ferry, all of which were removed, the skiff chopped to pieces, and the scow cast adrift, in order to interrupt the communication. All this was done before 10 on Friday morning, for the murderers were met about 11 by the the Clayoosh Indian, Squinteye, a mile higher up on the other side of the Ferry. They proceeded it appears to join the other Indians at the principal camp about seven miles up, where they talked and joked with the workmen after supper, and sang Indian songs during a part of the night. The massacre took place just before the time the men generally rose in the morning, and so simultaneously that it is a wonder that anyone escaped to tell the tidings. The first news of the murder at the Ferry was brought down to the town-site at the head of the Inlet by the Indian Squinteye, who arrived very much frightened, at 3 in the morning of Friday, April 29th.

Squinteyes’s Declaration.

He was coming down to the Ferry from the upper camp on Thursday morning, with the chief Tellot, to fetch up provisions, when they met Klattasen, as before said, with his two boys, three other Indians, and some women, all of whom he would know again; they had two blankets, and some baked bread with them. Klattasen told them they need not go to the Ferry that they would find nobody there, for he had killed Smith. Tellot got angry, expostulated with Klattasen, and said he would return and inform Mr. Brewster, the foreman, but finally accompanied Klattasen. He then snatched away Squinteye’s gun, giving him, or promising to give him, two blankets (a very small equivalent), and threatening otherwise to stab him. Klattasen then told Squinteye to begone, as quick as he could, down the valley, and say nothing, or he would be murdered also. Klattasen had on Smith’s shirt with red stripes. They were going up the hill at the caρon about a mile above the Ferry, when he met them. This was about 11 a.m. Klattasen said he would see the white men murdered because they did not give them their grub for packing. Squinteye found no boat at the Ferry, and had to wade the river a mile below.

Tenas George’s Statement.

The news of the wholesale murder at the two upper camps was brought down by Mr. Brewster’s servant, George, an Indian boy of about fifteen, who waded the river and ran down 40 miles in [10?] hours, reaching the Inlet about 4 in the afternoon on Saturday, April 30th. He was washing the plates after breakfast at the upper tent, to which Mr. Brewster had removed from the principal camp the evening before, with Mr. Clark, the settler, Baptiste Demarest and James Gaudet, when six Indians came up, two of them without guns. Saw Gaudet shot about twenty-five yards off. Was shot a first time, then a second, when he dropped down dead. Would know the Indian again who shot him. Saw Clark shot through the bushes. The Indian who shot him had a scar on one cheek. A young Chilcoaten, who had been a slave, (Chraychanuru, also called Bob, one of the six) told him then to klatawaw [go] as quickly as possible, and gave him a knife to defend himself. In going to the principal camp, two miles below, he met the other Indians coming up laden with plunder. He saw four dead bodies at the camp.

Supposed Murderers.

The Indians who were at the camp the evening before the murder, were:

Klattasen, the chief instigator, a tall, stout man; no moustache to signify; dark brown hair, or nearly black; big nose; murdered Smith.

Tellot, the Chief the Lower Chilcoatens; about 45; middle sized; struck a severe blow at Petersen with his axe.

Tellot’s son-in-law, George.

Lowwa, a stout young man, 23 or 24 years old.

Cushen, a stout, good-looking young man, about 25; middle size.

The Indian slave Chraychanuru or Bob, had no gun. He had bought Clark’s gun, however, without paying for it, and must have lent it or sold it again. Rather slender; about 20 years old.

Indian with a scar on each cheek, who shot Clark.

Indian of 45 was met, together with Klattasen, by Squint-Eye above the Ferry.

Indian with an exceedingly wide mouth, ring in the nose and black moustache; had a white handled knife and red leggings. Had been sick at the camp. Shot one of the men in Petersen’s tent.

Indian about 20, with a very long, dark face, long dark hair and looked like a priest. Was one of the two who accompanied Klattasen from the town site.

The second Indian was a fine, stout-looking warrior, about 23 or 24. Was said by Tellot’s son-in-law George to have shot a white man near Seechelt’s peninsula some time ago.

Total number 12, of whom 4 were without guns. There had been 16 Chilcoatens in all, but 4 had returned to Benshee Lake by the Memeya and Bridge rivers.

Other Means of Detection.

Besides the above description, the Chief, Tellot, has a relation at Tatla Lake.

The tents, which were all cut to pieces and carried away, were marked, “J.W. Keiser,” in a circle.

There was a black terrier at the camp, of middle size, and about three years old; probably followed the other Indian dogs.

The table knives had strong blades, which, when pointed, as some of them had been by the Indians, made good daggers. The bone handles had diagonal ribs, and were fastened with three rivets. A keg of powder was emptied and divided among the Indians late of the camp.


At the station, everything had been plundered and carried away, excepting such tools as could be of no use to the Indians. Five pieces of bacon and a bag of beans were first found hid in the bushes, and after several long explorations, another cache was found about half a mile off, from which, about 500 pounds of bacon, two hundred pounds of sugar, and 120 of dried apples were removed, besides some cooking utensils. At this cache, fully 50 feet square of ground were covered with sugar, of which there were 800 lbs. weight, coffee, tea, dried apples, and beef. Smith, the ferryman, appears to have been shot from behind, while sitting at the fire, with two bullets, one of which was lodged in the tree about three feet off, and the other glanced off. There was a pool of blood close by. The body had been dragged to the river, close at hand, and thrown in.

Principal Camps.

The scene of dessolation here was distressing beyond expression. All the tents had been cut up and were gone, and the whole camp gutted; or, what was left, was smashed and destroyed – baking pans broken to pieces, cross-saws bent in two, books and papers torn up and scattered to the wind, with torn clothes, and blood besmeared in every direction, but no bodies. It was easy, however, to trace them and find how each had been dragged to the river, by the blood on the stumps and the marks on the ground.

Notes taken Friday, May 20th.

1st. Tent. – At the place where Oppenshaw’s head lay, there was a large pool of blood. His hat was found close by. There was a pool of blood near the head of John Nieuman, who was next found. His shirt and trowers [trousers] were found, the first with two bullet holes near the right groin, the trowsers untouched. He had evidently been shot in bed when undressed, and probably finished with a blow on the head.

2d Tent. – Blacksmith Scotty, a large pool of blood near the head.

George Smith, found in the same manner.

3d Tent. – Robert Pollock, blankets saturated with blood; the inside of the straw matting all stained with blood; probably shot or wounded in the body.

P. Peterson escaped wounded.

4th Tent. – Peter Buckley. Escaped badly wounded.

Hoffman, black jumper saturated, with blood; white blanket the same; black neck-tie covered with blood, hair and brains; towel full of blood. There seems to have been a struggle for life. An empty leather purse found here covered with blood, and a canvas bag for silver.

5th Tent. – Charles Buttler, cook; no blood, the ground of the tent clean and smooth; his dark colored jacket found near the fireplace with two bullet holes in the back; was evidently dressed and had just left the tent; was probably shot in the back while stooping over the fire; is supposed to have been shot the first.

6th Tent. – Joseph Fielding. His trowsers, which he was in the habit of putting under his head, steeped in blood.

James Campbell. Straw matting full of blood, blue bed cover, the same; a remnant of the tent stabbed through.

E. Mosely. He was in this tent and escaped unhurt; he had changed tent the evening before, unknown to the Indians.

Third or Upper Camp.

About two miles above the preceeding. The ground was covered with debris as at the other camp and strewn with torn papers. It was near this spot that P. Buckley, one of the wounded men, watched the Indians dividing the spoil in the evening; he was hid in a hole amongst the rocks above; the men here having just left the camp to go to work when the murderers arrived, were dispersed on the trail; Mr. Brew’s exploring party returned without having found their tracks, but Mr. Waddington with a second party was more successful.

Bodies Found.

The first body found was that of James Gaudet, lying against a tree on the hill-side, about 50 yards below the trail. A bullet had passed through the right shoulder and a second through the left temple, the brain protruding through the wound. The body was naked except the socks, and in a shocking state of decomposition.

Body of John Clark, the settler, found about 100 yards further on, and 75 yards from the trail, down the hill-side. Bullet shot in the groin, another inside the right thigh, and the head battered. Body stripped and in a hideous state.

Baptiste Demarest, the third in order, had evidently been chopping a few yards further on; must have seen or heard the first two shot; left the log he was at and ran for his life down the hill, after stooping under a tree, where his handkerchief was found and recognised. His heel steps clearly traced down the hill to mossy ground near the river, into which he either jumped of his own accord (for he was rather weak-minded) or was driven, and was dashed to pieces; or possibly he was taken prisoner and may still be alive, for he spoke broken Chilcoaten, served as an interpreter, and was looked upon as a sort of tillicum [friend] by the Indians.

The body of Mr. Brewster, the foreman of the party, was found about 200 yards further down the hill and near the last tree he had blazed. There was a bullet hole in the right breast and the right temple was traversed by the sharp edge of an axe, which had penetrated to the brain. A large incision in the side showed that the body was empty and that the heart had been removed - to be cut up, probably, and ate, as the greatest mark of Indian vengeance!! The body was naked; a shoe and Mr. Brewster’s pocket and time books, and several letters from Mr. Waddington, were found near the body.


A receipt from the Bank of British North America for $200, and two $20 bank-notes, belonging to P. Peterson, also, a receipt of $350 from the Bank of British Columbia, belonging to J. Campbell, were found among the stray papers. Peterson had also some coin; Clark had $230, and Joseph Fielding, $50. Hoffman and some of the other men had money, all of which was plundered.

Motives for the Massacre

Plunder was certainly one of the chief incentives; there can be little doubt, however, that the main object in view was to put a stop to a road through the Chilicoaten territory. The murder on the Bute Inlet Trail is but the continuation on a larger scale of those committed at Bella Coola, which have remained unpunished, and which prove the aversion of the Chilcoatens to the opening up of their country by the whites. The Bute Trail had lately entered on their territory, and no compensation had been offered them. Nor could Mr. Waddington, who had paid $2000 of taxes on the road, be expected to do anything. Two Two [sic] years ago he succeeded in pacifying the small tribe below with presents, but when he applied to the Government for reimbursement, was told that he had done it on his own responsibility.

As before stated, most of the Chilcoatens who committed the murder had come down to the trail for the first time, and Mr. Brewster and the old workmen were particularly struck with this. There can be no doubt that these men decided the lower Chilcoatens to commit the deed, and that their intention was to include Mr. Waddington, as being the great tyhee [chief] and sole promoter of the enterprise (in the absence of any apparent sanction or protection from the Government during three years) in the general destruction. Nor can anything else explain the wanton destruction of property by the Indians to their own great loss, or the wholesale murder of harmless workmen without provocation, or the murder of Clark, the settler, who (all interested assertions to the contrary notwithstanding) had been charity itself to them during the winter. It is true that Mr. Brewster was less generous in giving the Indians provisions than formerly, and attempt has been wrongfully made on this score to show that he had become an object of hatred to them. But though starving the Indians would never take food in payment for work, and the universal testimony of the Indians themselves goes to prove that he was most just, and that if he was not very much liked for not being lavish, he certainly was not hated on that account. The upper Chilcoatens only hated Mr. Brewster inasmuch as they hated the whole enterprise, and have since murdered Manning and Mr. Waddington’s party on the upper trail. The mutilation of Brewster’s body was a well known act of warlike vengeance and the natural consequence of being at the head of the enterprise in Mr. Waddington’s absence.

A third and last conjecture may be given, which is the removal of Governor Douglas, whom the Indians had known for 30 years and for whom they had a profound respect. Nor can the Indians understand how a chief or governor can be removed except by death. To these the departure of Governor Douglas was a sort of interregnum, which, added to the well known immunity of the murderers at Bella Coola, and the evident untruth, after three years’ persistence, of Mr. Waddington’s assertions that he was protected by the Government, encourage them in their agression.

Source: "Origin of the Massacre," Daily Chronicle, May 29, 1864.

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