Haida knowledge keepers teach that Gov. James Douglas targeted their Peoples during 1862 in an intentional mass killing using smallpox as a tool. Does the written record support this narrative?

This book documents Governor James Douglas’ resort to “injustice and cruelty” while asserting control for the British Crown in the North Pacific and the role of Francis Poole as a foot soldier within Douglas’ 1862 policy to create conditions of life calculated to destroy the indigenous Peoples sufficiently to mitigate the cost of “Indian Wars.”


Haida knowledge keepers often introduce their history of British Columbia with The Story of Bones Bay. This Story teaches that Governor James Douglas executed an intentional mass killing during 1862 using smallpox as a tool for displacing native authority.

This book explores the written record as it touches the Haida experience leading to the Crown’s assumption of authority over the Haida and over Haida Gwaii from 1863. Beginning in 1860, Douglas answered the Haida’s prior refusal to submit unconditionally for rule by the Crown with a program of increasing violence that culminated in spreading smallpox as a political tool.

After colonists knowingly imported smallpox in 1862, the Douglas administration violated British law to pervert standard disease control measures while reducing the population underpinning native authority in numerous autonomous territories. Officials concealed their true intentions at each stage by supplying the public with misdirection.

This book also documents the role of Francis Poole, a foot soldier employed to advance Douglas’ smallpox program from Victoria to the Nuxalk, Tsilhqot’in and Haida territories. MLA Robert Burnaby coached Poole in the administration’s preferred means of obscuring the public record concerning what Poole’s memoir refers to as “a sorrowful trail of blood.”

Includes more than a dozen original illustrations and maps.

A note from the author.

“The Supreme Court holds that the Crown has a legal duty to seek reconciliation where its agents have not acted honorably while asserting control over an indigenous People. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – now adopted by both Canada and British Columbia – includes a duty to reflect indigenous histories appropriately in education and public information. It is hard to see how there can ever be real reconciliation in British Columbia when indigenous knowledge keepers tell of a smallpox-assisted genocide and the non-indigenous education system teaches denial. While I am honored to help with tools for those carving new paths, I am humbled by my meagre abilities compared with the need.”

Learn more about Tom here.

The Smallpox War Against the Haida

Available in print and digital editions.
Starting at $19.95