In 1862/63, what is now British Columbia was massively depopulated by a series of catastrophic smallpox epidemics. In one year or less, several native Peoples suffered a sudden catastrophic decline that amounted to as much as 70 percent of their whole number.
Native Elders and community leaders always have alleged that the settler community artificially created these epidemics as an aid to the subjugation of natives so that they could be dispossessed and their land redistributed to settlers.
Beginning with the Tsilhqot’in struggle against smallpox spreaders leading to the Chilcotin War, this study examines evidence from the written record to discover how and whether it corroborates native traditions.
It then analyzes the behaviour of colonial officials in Victoria, the main settler population centre of the time, as they repeatedly forced healthy and sick natives to mix while expelling all natives from the town at police gunpoint.
Finally, it tracks the distribution of the disease from Victoria throughout the Pacific shelf, showing the agency of settlers throughout.