August 2 is the 150th anniversary of Victoria’s incorporation. In the weeks before, all natives had been expelled from Victoria and their houses burned. The colonial regime of James Douglas had decided natives would be allowed to remain in the European settlement only if a settler certified that they had employment.
At about 9:00pm on July 4, 1862, Francis Poole and eight men from what had begun as a party of 40 straggled into Ft. Alexandria in the geographic center of colonial British Columbia. Poole would say in his memoir that his party had been in hourly dread of attack by “hostile savages,” that one of his party had been killed by the Tsilhqot’in and that his party left a “sorrowful trail of blood.”
On June 10, after visiting Dr. Clerjon at the Ft. Rupert H.B.C. post on Vancouver Island, a party led by Francis Poole would begin introducing smallpox at Bella Coola and then along the route of the proposed Bentinck Arm road through Tsilhqot’in territory to the Fraser River. Within 30 days an eye-witness estimated 75% of the Nuxalk at Bella Coola were dead or dying from the disease. Over 75 percent of all the Tsilhqot’in people would be dead before year end, a sign of systematic introduction.