Condensed history of 1862 Small pox epedemic

Condensed history of 1862 Small pox epidemic:


Remember I am a forester not an archaeologist or anthropologists, but to me it was interesting and probably the reason there was no opposition to settlement on Lasqueti.


1862 Small pox epidemic:  In march of 1862, San Francisco unknowingly or knowingly exported small pox to Victoria. The government, the nine member House of Assembly in Victoria refused to finance First Nation inoculation against small pox; which was contrary to the wishes of Governor George Douglas. The 1859 census in Victoria, had the First Nation population at approximately the same total numbers as the white settlers. Victoria was still relying on First Nation population for a large part of its labour (this was in the middle of Fraser River gold rush). There were local natives and natives from the north in the camps around Victoria; looking for work and trading as at a rendezvous. Small pox soon raged through the native population. The local Songhee (First Nation) and Fraser river natives were inoculated in 1862, probably by missionaries.  Who were not inoculated were the majority of the northern First Nation populations staying around Victoria. After the disease had incubated (about 12 days) and started to kill the northern natives; the Victoria police commissioner forced the eviction the most disease ridden northern First Nation groups (April 28 into July) from around Victoria because of the number of deaths that had occurred. The politicians and police were worried about the disease spreading into Victoria.  This exodus by canoe to the north spread small pox up the Straits of Georgia and beyond (it quickly leaped beyond the inoculated tribes). It seems that small pox victims were left all along the way and one canoe was a total loss from a camp near Nanoose.

Captain Shaff also stated that the Indians sent away from Victoria were rapidly perishing. He observed how the Indians reacted to the eruption of the disease as they paddled their canoes north:

"So soon as [smallpox] pustules appear upon an occupant of one of the canoes, he is put ashore; a small piece of muslin, to serve as a tent, is raised over him, a small allowance of bread, fish and water doled out and he is left alone to die"(The Daily British Colonist, June 14, 1862, p. 3).

Captain Osgood verified these reports and stated:

"The sick and dead with their canoes, blankets, guns, &c, were left along the coast. In one encampment, about twelve miles above Nanaimo, Capt. Osgood counted twelve dead Indians — the bodies festering in the noonday sun" (The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3).

The following are reports after the Police of Victoria forced eviction of already infected groups of the northern tribes that had been living outside Victoria; which started about April 28, 1862 and continued till at least the middle of June. There was an estimated >2200 northern natives and @ 2000 local natives providing a major work force for Victoria in 1861. Only the local Songhee and Fraser river natives were inoculated in 1862, while the white population of Victoria was estimated at 2500 – 5000 in 1862.

Small pox of 1862: from

During the first half of May 1862, Father Leon Fouquet, a Catholic Missionary, reportedly vaccinated 3,400 Indians along the lower Fraser River…

On the evening of June 12, 1862, the first word from the north reached Victoria of the devastation caused by the smallpox epidemic. Captain Shaff of the trading schooner Nonpareil, just returned, reported that Indians at Fort Simpson and Fort Rupert were "dying from the small pox like rotten sheep. Hundreds were swept away within a few days, and many bodies remain unburied" (The Daily British Colonist, June 13, 1862, p. 3)…

A week later Captain Osgood of the sloop Northern Light, who spent the first half of June in northern waters, returned to Victoria and confirmed Captain Shaff's reports. Captain Osgood stated that another northern tribe, the Bella-Bellas [Heiltsuk], were "dying off very fast" and that the "ravages of small pox at [Fort] Rupert had been frightful. The tribe native to that section was nearly exterminated" (The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3).

He went on to say that of a group of 60 Hydahs [Haidas] sent from Victoria in mid-May, 40 had died. On July 11, 1862, the paper reported that Captain Whitford, who just returned from a voyage north, counted 100 bodies of Indians dispersed along the shores north of Nanaimo (The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, July 11, 1862).

I believe Lasqueti was on the main canoe route north, through the shorter rapids to the north of Quadra Island. These First Nation’s people had been supplying a major labor pool for the city of Victoria, since 1850’s till 1862. Up until the gold rush, the native population around Victoria was usually over twice the settler population.




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