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

The Chilcoaten Expedition

Diary of a Volunteer

Daily British Colonist, October 17, 1864

[ Palmer Map, Fort Alexandria Detail, Lt. H.S. Palmer, drawn by J. Turnball, British Columbia Surveyor General's Branch Vault, Roads and Trails Drawer ]

On July 20th Alexis, the friendly Chilcoaten chief, joined the expedition with eight mounted warriors. Among them was an old one-eyed rascal, who according to the testimony of a Bella Coola Indian who had accompanied the pack-train, was one of the attacking party. The fellow confessed that he had received a coat, a bag of flour and $10 from the plunder, but said he threw them away again -- a very likely act for a greedy savage; there was not, however, sufficient evidence to criminate him, so he was not apprehended. The same man had been sent after the murderer of Manning’s party to kill Pablo, a packer on his way from Alexandria, but had been prevented by Alexis. Many of the Indians at this point were frequently found in possession of goods evidently portions of the load of McDonnell’s train, but on being questioned, innocently said that they had been given to them, which seemed to the leaders of the expedition to be a satisfactory reason.

Mr. Brew’s party now prepared to return to the coast, sending Moss the trader back with a small force to the Slide to look out for the natives when they came to fish. On August 1st a slave of Klatlassin’s, who had been formerly employed about McDonell’s pack train, came in from the Chilcoatens, having been sent to endeavor to arrange terms, the savages having heard that the whites intended to kill them all,--men, women and children. From the Indian they learnt that Governor Seymour had had a narrow escape from being shot by the lurking savages. He had strolled out from the camp one day, smoking a cigar, when he was closely followed by two Indian scouts who were prowling in the vicinity of the camp, and who approached him so closely that they saw him “put some tobacco in a piece of paper, roll it up and smoke;” they, however, made no attempt to injure him and he returned to camp, unconscious of the danger to which he had been exposed.

On the following week, ‘23 days’ rations having arrived from Alexandria, the party started back to Tatla Lake, near which McLean had been killed, sending an Indian runner to Anaham, telling him to join them, which, however, the wily old chief failed to do. In three days they reached the lake, which is described as a long narrow sheet of water, varying in width from a quarter to half a mile, surrounded by high bare benches, like Fraser river, which were covered with bunch grass and wild camomile. The ground in the vicinity showed traces of alkali. The party spent the whole of August in the vicinity of the lakes and the Homathco river, scouting in all directions, the force being divided into two parties, under the command of Mr. Brew and Mr. Elwyn. They thoroughly examined the surrounding country, enduring considerable hardships in the search, but although they found abundant traces of Indians, they failed in even seeing a single Siwash. According to the diary it appears that Mr. Cox, anxious to secure all the glory of bagging the murderers, sent a messenger to tell them that Mr. Brew’s party would kill them all, men, women and children, whereas he only wanted to talk to them and make terms. The diary makes severe reflections on the conduct of Cox's party in not capturing the murderers of McLean, which it alleges might have been done by securing the women and children.

On Sept. 3rd, Charlie Page and McLeod, the packers, came through from Alexandria; from them the party learnt the capture of Tellot and Klatlassin, with six of their followers. Cox sent for them to come in and make terms, telling them not to bring their guns, as his men might think they were bad Indians and fire on them. The savages accordingly came in, got a plentiful supply of muckamuck, and went to sleep, and on awaking in the morning, found themselves prisoners in a stockade which had been erected round them during the night. Klatlassin’s son, when he heard of this, swore to wreak deadly vengeance on the whites for their treachery. The packers also stated that the Governor had sent Mr. Cox a commission to try and execute the savages on the spot, if found guilty, but Mr. Cox had sent for thirty more men to aid in taking them prisoners to Alexandria.

Mr. Brew continued his march coastward, at Nacootloon meeting the chief Anaham and several of his people. The old fellow was not very communicative, but promised to secure some of the murderers of McDonell’s party in the winter. He also went out and brought back four of the horses belonging to the pack-train. The ranches of the Indians here were searched and among other things a carpet sack and part of a buckskin coat were found and identified as having belonged to McDonnell, yet Mr. Brew thought there was not sufficient proof to criminate Anaham or his tribe. They had already heard that Anaham had seven horse loads of the plunder in his possession.

On passing the scene of the murder they found that the bones of the unfortunate men had been dug up by the wolves; they therefore took them down with them to Bella Coola. On the way down a number of Anaham’s tribe were met on their return from a fishing excursion, and several of the Indians threw down their packs and ran into the woods. They were not questioned, however, as Anaham had promised to secure the real murderers in the winter. On Sept. 29th the expedition reached Bella Coola and the following day got on board the gunboat Forward and were conveyed to New Westminster, having been absent 107 days.

Source: "The Chilcoaten Expedition, Diary of a Volunteer (concluded)," Daily British Colonist, October 17, 1864.

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