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

Smallpox Culture

[ Smallpox Figure 1837, A Blackfoot representation of smallpox on a bison-robe

Perhaps even more important than the contact between peoples was the exchange of viruses. This was a one-sided exchange, because the dense populations of Europe, with their techniques of animal husbandry, had led to numerous diseases leaping from animal populations to humans. Smallpox was one of these which reappeared every generation in Europe and to which Europeans had developed a resistance, leaving them vulnerable but less susceptible and less likely to die than aboriginal populations in the New World who had never experienced such diseases.

The isolated position of the Tsilhqot’in may have protected them from the first of the European epidemics which spread up from Mexico in the 1770s. Likewise, they may have been spared the smallpox epidemic of 1800 and the measles of the 1840s. When the smallpox epidemic of 1862 reached the borders of the Tsilhqot’in in the summer of that year, it was still a possibility that their isolation could protect them. But now, they had Europeans trying to build a road into their territory from two directions, miners passing through, and perhaps some unscrupulous trading partners. By the time of the events of 1864, smallpox had dramatically altered the Chilcotin Plateau.


Colonial Correspondence


Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Oral History or Interview

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History