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.
While all these actions were taken under the guise of protecting Europeans from smallpox, even healthy natives and natives who had been vaccinated were expelled. The disease itself had been imported to Victoria by agents for the Bentinck Arm Company. Attorney-general George Cary, the Premier of the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Governor’s legal adviser controlled this company. The Victoria business community saw the Bentinck Arm Road as key to consolidating Victoria’s future as the Pacific terminus of some transcontinental Northwest Passage by land.
Under the original expulsion order with the threat of being separated from their children were native women married to European men under any arrangement but a Christian marriage. One newspaper even advised these men “to humanize” themselves by submitting to the Christian ritual. The police seemingly allowed only native women working in the sex trade to remain without harassment. Soon a member of the new town council would attempt (unsuccessfully) to have all remaining native women excluded from Victoria as prostitutes.
At the same time, Douglas violated the treaty he had made with the local Songhees. He appointed a management commission to oversee development of the land which had been reserved to them in the Victoria area. As one sovereign power taking control of another’s territory, this was an act of war. However, it did not lead to the usual violent resistance because of depopulation, terror created by the fear of smallpox and an increasing disparity of military power.
Like all BC natives, those in the Victoria area lost control of their territory by genocide or ethnic cleansing instead of treaties, followed by conventional violence and the institution of a para-military occupation.
Want to learn the full story? Check out Tom Swanky’s book: “The True Story of Canada’s ‘War’ of Extermination on the Pacific.”