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

News from Bentinck Arm

North Bentinck Arm,
February 6th, 1865

To His Excellency Frederick Seymour, Governor of British Columbia, &c., &c., &c.

[ Bella Coola; Dr. Powell (centre) and Hamilton Moffatt (third from right), Unknown, BCA A-03980 ]


According to instructions contained in Your Excellency’s letter of the 19th October last I have the honor to report that I left the Steamer "Labouchere" at Bella Bella, or Millbank Sound, on the 25th December. I was there obliged to purchase a canoe and obtain a crew to come to this place, where, after a very rough trip, I arrived on the 28th.

I found on my arrival that “Pootlache,” the head chief of the Bella Coolas had gone to Millbank for the purpose of attending a feast given by the Bella Bella Indians. The portion of the tribe I found in the camp here received me however in the most friendly and hospitable manner, telling me at the same time that they expected “Pootlache” home in a few days. I also learned that Anatheim was still at "Caliacus" camp, about four miles further up the river, and immediately dispatched a messenger to inform him of my arrival, and of my desire to see him. He came down at once, and on my inquiring what steps he had taken to apprehend the Bute Inlet murderers still at large, informed me that he had neither seen nor heard of them since Mr. Brew’s departure. I told him that the Government would hold him to his promise of doing all he could to catch them, upon which he assured me that on his return to Nacoontloon Lake (which would be in a few days) he would do all in his power to capture them, and that he hoped to be able to bring some, if not all of them down when he returned in March for the Oolachan fishery. On the 5th of January he came down to see me, together with a number of his young men, and said he intended leaving the next day for the interior. He then reiterated his promise of doing his utmost to arrest “Ahan” and party, and after receiving a pipe and some tobacco took his departure in the most friendly manner.

“Pootlache” arrived on the 1st January, and the next day according to promise I went up to his camp, where I found all the chiefs assembled, Anaheim among the number. Many complaints were made of the manner in which they had been treated by some of the whites who had resided here. Not only have debts been incurred by them to a considerable amount for labour, but even blankets have been borrowed from the Indians, and payment made in notes not worth the paper they are written on. I enclose copies of some of these notes for Your Excellency’s inspection. All these men have now left this part of the country, quite regardless of the consequences of such conduct to those who may come after them. The Indians also complained of the property left at the graves of their dead having been taken away by the whites. I explained to them that all this would now be put a stop to; and that Your Excellency took the same interest in their happiness and welfare as in that of the whites; impressing upon them at the same time that the Government would severely punish any white man who injured them, while they would be equally strictly dealt with should they molest any of the whites while travelling about the country. I also warned them that they must not take the law into their own hands, but represent their grievances to the proper authorities, and that Your Excellency would see them redressed. I found that some of them were labouring under the impression that the whites were going to cause the smallpox to come among them again in the spring, and on inquiring where they had picked up such an idea, they replied that some of the whites at Victoria had threatened them with it. This is a most dangerous threat to make use of, and might cost the life of every white man on the coast should it obtain full credence among the Indians. They seem to be much pleased at my arrival and are determined to conduct themselves properly and give no cause of complaint. I may mention here, that Anaheim in the presence of all the Bella Coola chiefs promised to do his utmost to apprehend the Chilicoten murderers. He and his people have been rather hard pressed for provisions but succeeded in purchasing a barely sufficient supply from the Indians here with their furs, of which they possessed a large quantity. They are also all inclined to be friendly, and say they will never go to war with the whites, as the affair of last summer has shown them what they will have to suffer should they do so.

I learned from a “Weekenow” (i.e., Rivers Inlet) Indian who happened to be here, that “Ahan” and his party had visited that place, but had left for the mountains some time ago. He dared not go into the interior, as he feared meeting Anaheim. He was very short of provisions, and my informant was of opinion that he intended going to a place called Chowitti, at the mouth of the river emptying itself into the head of Knight’s Canal, in the fishing season to obtain supply. The widow of * * * (who was killed with Mc Donald) who was in the interior all last summer, corroborates the statement of “Ahan” being very short of food.

I found two white men here on my arrival. They appear to be carrying on a flourishing trade with the Indians, and give them a very good character. The Indians tell me that there is a great deal of whiskey selling carried on by the Schooners trading to this place, and most of them seem anxious that it should be put a stop to, as the chiefs say they cannot control the actions of their young men when under its influence. They also tell me that the way in which the Schooners engaged in this trade manage to elude the Custom House Officers and Gunboats, while on the coast, is by hiding their liquors in some unfrequented spot, until they are out of the way, when they return and again take it on board and commence trading. Others leave large quantities with the Indians to dispose of for them, for which they pay a heavy commission. This latter practice, however, is only known at Bella Bella, as the Indians are not all to be trusted. As a means of stopping, in some degree at least, this pernicious trade, I would most respectfully suggest to Your Excellency the idea of having some one stationed at the entrance of Johnston’s Straits, where all the small craft (which are principally engaged in this trade) are obliged to pass when bound up the coast, as their tonnage will not admit of their going outside Vancouver Island in the winter season, at which period this trade is chiefly carried on. Another great assistance to putting a stop to whiskey selling would be in accepting to a certain extent Indian evidence, as it is almost impossible to procure the testimony of white men in these isolated places.

Enclosed is a small sketch showing the route followed by “Ahan” to Rivers Canal. There are some Bella Coola Indians on the eve of starting for that place, and I have told them to make every inquiry regarding the movement of “Ahan”, consequently I shall be able to write more fully by next opportunity, which will be shortly, as the Schooner “Lord Raglan” is going down in three or four weeks. There has only been one vessel here since my arrival, and that is the above mentioned Schooner.

I have, &c.
J. D. B. Ogilvy.

Source: J. D. B. Ogilvy, "News from Bentinck Arm," The Government Gazette Extraordinary, February 27, 1865.

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