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.”