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

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The Small-Pox Among the Indians

The British Colonist, April 28, 1862

When it was first intimated that one or two cases of varioloidhad made its appearance in this place, we predicted that if proper precautions were not taken at once to prevent that loathsome disease from spreading, the Indians on the Reserve would become infected and through them spread itself throughout the colony. We regret to say, that so far as the Indians are concerned, our prediction has been verified. It now remains to be seen whether prompt steps will be taken to [control?] the small-pox [four illegible words]. Some twenty deaths have already occurred in their village; and so far as we have learned every case has been fatal. In a few days more we shall probably hear still more gloomy accounts of the continued ravages of the disease. The other fragments of tribes on the Reserve will doubtless become infected, and thus the Reserve will be made one huge lazaar-house, in which its savage occupants will rot and die with the most revolting disease that ever afflicted the human race. Were it likely that the disease would only spread among the Indians, there might be those among us like our authorities who would rest undisturbed, content that the small-pox is a fit successor to the moral ulcer that has festered at our doors throughout the last four years. The chances are that the pestilence will spread among our white population, a fit judgment for their intolerable wickedness in allowing such a nest of filth and crime to accumulate within sight of their houses, and within the hearing of our church bells. There is nothing to prevent its spreading, except the savage superstition that instinctively leaves the diseased to suffer and die uncared for and alone. Beyond that one preventitive, there is not a solitary preventive measure. The Indians have free access to the town day and night. They line our streets, fill the pit in our theatre, are found at nearly every open door during the day and evening in the town; and are even employed as servants in the dwellings, and in the culinary departments of our restaurants and hotels. Even such as are employed as servants are in frequent communication with their friends, visiting the town or living on the Reserve. In addition, those who fall victims to the virus are buried near the surface and near the town where everybody walks out occasionally, and as a matter of course the effluvia at present, or a slight disturbance of the grave thereafter, may revive and spread the infection.

It requires no further comment to show what a terrible scourge we are nursing at our doors -- tolerating in our very midst -- a scourge that may strike down our best citizens at any moment, as a sacrifice -- sacrificed to the lust, cupidity, and culpable negligence of our citizens, and our authorities. What is more, the reports of such a disease existing among the Indians in the vicinity of the town, is calculated to alarm immigrants, and not improbably have a tendency to keep them away. The most vigorous means, then, should be adopted to-day -- should be adopted at once. The entire Indian population should be removed from the Reservation to a place remote from the communication with the whites; whilst the infected houses with all their trumpery should be burned to ashes, and the graves of the dead covered so thoroughly as to make the escape of effluvia impossible. This duty and other regulations devolves on our citizens. It remains for them to act forthwith, so that families may be freed from alarm, and in order to let the news go forth that visitors are not exposed to contagion here. No half-way measures can be tolerated with safety; nor no whining about Indian trade can be allowed to interfere with the purification of the Reserve. We are assured that the Indians cannot be removed because the Governor is absent in British Columbia! The Police Commissioner can do nothing in his absence; nor no one else in authority! Are we then to remain inactive whilst our factotum Governor is absent? Never! In the absence of the Governor, in the absence of a Town Council with authority to enforce sanitary regulations, let our citizens improvise a Board of Health. Let them meet today. Let them call a public meeting at once. Let them take any means, no matter what, to protect their families from the pestilential scourge that is hovering among the savages on the outskirts of town. We appeal to our authorities, our clergy, our leading citizens, to adopt vigorous measures without a moment’s delay, as there are none to be lost.

Source: "The Small-Pox Among the Indians," British Colonist, April 28, 1862.

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