In March of 1862 Alfred Waddington and R.C. Moody, Commissioner of Lands and Works for the Colony of British Columbia, signed an agreement whereby Waddington would be granted permission to charge toll fees if he could engineer a new and quicker route to the Cariboo. Reverend Robert Christopher Lundin Brown wrote Klatsassan, and Other Reminiscences of Missionary Life in British Columbia (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Gilbert and Rivington, Printers, 1873) in which he provides some background to the bloody confrontation that occurred between the Tsilhqot'in [Chilcotin] people and the road-building personnel who arrived in their territory to implement Alfred Waddington's scheme to build a connecting road from Bute Inlet to the goldfields of Barkerville. Some of his workers allegedly threatened the Tsilhqot'in with the onset of smallpox if they chose to impede the progress of the road. This threat was taken very seriously because the Tsilhqot'in were aware of how other tribes had been decimated by the disease. Some of Waddington's crew were attacked and killed. In the aftermath of the so-called Chilcotin War, seven Indians were found guilty of murder and six were hanged, including one leader named Klatsassin, or Klatsassan.

Brown was a clergyman at St. Mary's Parsonage in Lillooet from 1863 to 1865. He described his efforts to convert Klatsassan and his men to Christianity while on death row. Brown wrote: "They have, be it observed, a very special horror of having their names written down. They look upon paper as a very awful thing, they tremble to see the working of a pen. Writing is, they imagine, a dread mystery. By it the mighty whites seem to carry on intercourse with unseen powers. When they are writing, there's no telling what they may be doing. They may be bidding a pestilence come over the land, or ordering the rain to stay in the west, or giving directions for the salmon to remain in the ocean. Especially is the Indian appalled when he sees his own name put on paper. To him the name is not distinct from the person who owns it. If his name is written down, he is written down: if his name is passed over to the demons which people his hierarchy, he is sure to be bewitched and given as prey into the teeth of his invisible foes. So when those Chilcoatens saw their names taken down and heard themselves threatened with disease, they were only too ready to believe the threat. They talked about it a great deal among themselves. They recollected that something of the same sort had been said by another white man two years before, at a place called Puntzeen, in the interior; he had said small-pox was coming, and in the winter of 1862-63 it had come - ay, and carried off the best part of whole tribes. Had not the Shuschwaps lost many of their warriors? and the Indians who lived away at Lillooet, on the great river, as many as two-thirds of their whole tribe? It was only too likely that those awful whites would fulfill their threat, and send the foulest of all diseases which ever came forth from the jaws of hell, to sweep their tribes away into everlasting night."

Reverend Brown died in 1876. Since the 1990s the Tsilhqot'in Nation--who were referred to as the Chilcoatens by Brown--have observed Klatsassin Memorial Day on the anniversary of his hanging to rekindle their determination to protect their territory.


British Columbia. An Essay (New Westminster: Royal Engineer Press, 1863).

British Columbia: The Indians and Settlers at Lillooet; An Appeal for Missionaries (London: Printed by R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, 1870).

Klatsassan, and Other Reminiscences of Missionary Life in British Columbia (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Gilbert and Rivington, Printers, 1873).

[BCBW 2004] "Missionaries" "1873" "First Nations" "Religion"