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


[ Bute Inlet, Whymper, Frederick, ca. 1837-1901, BCA PDP00105 ]

The blood of the fourteen men spilled into the Homathco River before dawn on the morning of April 29th, 1864 was only the beginning. By the end of May, 19 road-builders, packers and a farmer would be dead. It was the deadliest attack by Aboriginal people on immigrants in western Canada, before or since. Within six weeks an army of over 100 men were in the field to hunt down the killers.

Finding them was not going to be easy. The killings had taken place in a remote triangle in central British Columbia, a country of jagged mountains, torrential rivers, and high plateau, remote from any settlements and inaccessible by road or even a horse trail. The dead had been trying to change that; they all had some connection to the attempt to build a road from the coast to the goldfields of the Cariboo.

This was the territory of the Tsilhqot’in people who had lived on the high Chilcotin Plateau for centuries, perhaps for eons. The survivors of the attacks identified the principal leader of the more than 20 involved in the killings as a Tsilhqot’in chief, who was called by his people "Klatsassin".

There are many mysteries to solve here. Who were the killers? Six were eventually hanged for the killings but at least one of them killed no one. What was the motive? Was it robbery, revenge, self-defense, or an attempt to block the road and keep Whites out of their territory? Were these murders and therefore criminal matters that should be dealt with by the courts -- or a war with killings on both sides, that should be settled by a peace treaty? If it was a war, who won?

On this website you will find a comprehensive collection of documents, newspapers, paintings, photos, even music, that relates to the events of the 1864 killings and the aftermath. You are invited to become an historian, to study the evidence and come to your own conclusions about the causes, outcomes and guilt. You will find other mysteries here too, not the least of which is, who was Klatsassin? The name means: "we do not know his name".

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History