Members of the Tsilqhot’in Nation gathered at Tl’etinqox Thursday for an official send-off of a leadership delegation travelling to Ottawa to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exonerate the Tsilqhot’in warn chiefs that were hanged in 1864 and 1865. Gene Cooper photo

Members of the Tsilqhot’in Nation gathered at Tl’etinqox Thursday for an official send-off of a leadership delegation travelling to Ottawa to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exonerate the Tsilqhot’in warn chiefs that were hanged in 1864 and 1865. Gene Cooper photo

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to stand up in Parliament on Monday and announce that Canada is exonerating the six Tsilhqot’in war chiefs that were hanged in 1864 and 1865.

“A Tsilhqot’in delegation will be journeying to Ottawa to witness Canada acknowledge that our war chiefs did no wrong and were heroes protecting their land during the Chilcotin War of 1864 and 65,” said Tsilhqot’in National Government chair Chief Joe Alphonse.

According to a news release issued by the TNG, the chiefs that perished on Oct. 26, 1864 near Quesnel were Head War Chief Lhats’as?in (Lhas-awss-een); Chief Biyil (pe-yal); Chief Tellot (tay-lot); Chief Tahpitt (ta-peet); Chief Chayses (chay-sus); and Chief Ahan (a-han) who was hanged in New Westminister in 1865.

“Under the threat of smallpox and further loss of people and land, the Tsilhqot’in declared war,” the release noted. “At dawn on April 30, 1864, the group of Tsilhqot’in warriors, led by Lhats’as?in, attacked and killed most of the men making up the camp of the road crew. The Tsilhqot’in party suffered no casualties.”

On July 20, 1864, unable to persuade any Tsilhqot’in to betray the war party and out of rations, the Governor made plans to withdraw in defeat.

That afternoon, a Tsilhqot’in diplomatic party came to his camp.

This, finally, was the first ever meeting between Tsilhqot’in and Colonial representatives.

Later, Lhats’as?in and seven others came unarmed for a discussion of peace on August 15, 1864, and the Governor was not there. At the meeting, the chiefs were instead arrested, and later hanged.

The sixth, Ahan, was hanged July 18, 1865.

READ MORE: Tsilhqot’in mark 153-year anniversary of 1864 hanging

Speaking to his community during a recent justice forum, Alphonse said it’s a unique time for First Nations in Canada’s history.

As Tsilhqot’in, they won Aboriginal title and have been working with the province of British Columbia through ongoing talks, but the relationship with the federal government needs further work, he said.

In September 2014, then Premier Christy Clark visited Xeni Gwet’in First Nation title land and signed a letter of understanding with the Tsilhqot’in chiefs that committed the province to working in partnership with the Tsilhqot’in to implement the Supreme Court of Canada rights and title decision.

Clark followed up her commitment in October 2014 by making a formal apology in the legislature to the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the hanging of the chiefs.

After that, Alphonse said he told the federal government the Tsilhqot’in would not work with them until the war chiefs were exonerated by them as well.

“We finally got a commitment. It’s been 154 years in the making.”

The second phase will be to have Trudeau come to title lands to exonerate the war chiefs in front of all the Tsilhqot’in people, Alphonse added.

There will be a live stream on Monday of his announcement in Parliament at 12:30 p.m.

With files from the Tsilhqot’in National Government

Last weekend Alphonse and other leaders travelled to the war chiefs’ burial site near Quesnel and filmed a video about it.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jessica Ogden, who calls herself a water protector, not a protester, has lost an internal police complaint following several interactions with the RCMP and the legal system in 2019. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Kootenay logging blockader loses police complaint, files counterclaim against company

Court actions and police complaints stem from blockades in the Balfour and Argenta areas in 2019

Nelson Amnesty is holding its annual Write for Rights campaign Dec. 12 at the Nelson Public Library. Photo: Submitted
Amnesty International Write for Rights relevant during the pandemic

Nelson Amnesty will host the annual event Dec. 12 at the Nelson Public Library

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

Katrine Conroy’s swearing in ceremony. Photo: Kootenay West Katrine Conroy Facebook
Forestry Minister West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy talks about her new role

Conroy will also oversee Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Treaty

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism ‘widespread’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Most Read