A Missing Genocide

In 2014, we undertook a comprehensive review of the CanadianMyseries.ca website, “We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War.” We published this review in A Missing Genocide and the Demonization of its Heroes, a book that is available as a download here.

In our study, we found that this website fails to give a fair hearing to the Tsilhqot’in perspective on the Chilcotin War of 1864, and especially so with regard to settlers creating artificial smallpox epidemics that were a leading cause of the War.

Since our book’s publication, British Columbia has formally exonerated the Chilcotin Chiefs that it hanged during the War. In expressing profound sorrow for this colonial wrong, the Premier acknowledged that settlers had spread smallpox intentionally in Tsilhqot’in territory. Yet anyone visiting the website will find the material there has been selected to support the colonial mythology that the smallpox epidemics begun in 1862 were mere natural events rather than the genocide consistently referred to by leaders and educators in the Tsilhqot’in community.

For that matter, the website also continues the colonial vilification of the Tsilhqot’in as outlaws and criminals that the Premier’s statement now explicitly repudiates. As a result, one cannot recommend it to non-specialists, such as teachers, students, journalists or others seeking information or an introduction to the Chilcotin War.

In BC Studies issue no. 188, Winter 2015/16, Chris Arnett of the University of British Columbia reviewed our book. Among other things, Arnett highlights a central problem that we identify. In cases where an objective understanding necessarily requires an appreciation of the indigenous perspective, such as the Chilcotin War, one cannot simply go to the colonial archive and find all that one needs to know. One must also listen for the history of the land as told by those who have always walked it.