More than 150 Years Later, Canada Exonerates Six Indigenous Chiefs Hanged in 1864

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tags: Canada, indigenous people, Justin Trudeau, Tsilhqotin

In 1864, five chiefs of Canada’s indigenous Tsilhqot’in people were called in to peace talks with the gold commissioner of the Colony of British Columbia. A fierce conflict had been waging between the Tsilhqot’in and white settlers who were building a road through Tsilhqot’in territory—and without Tsilhqot’in permission—to a creek laden with gold. The chiefs believed that the talks were a gesture of reconciliation, but when they arrived at the gold commissioner’s camp, they were promptly arrested, declared guilty of the murder of 14 settlers and hanged. A sixth Tsilhqot’in chief was later executed while trying to offer reparations.

For more than 150 years, this act of deception has been remembered by the Tsilhqot’in people as a deeply painful chapter of their history. Last Monday, John Paul Tasker of the CBC reports, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the long-standing wounds in an apology for the executions of the chiefs, posthumously absolving them of any wrongdoing.

“Today, we come together in the presence of the Tsilhqot’in chiefs, to fully acknowledge the actions of past governments, committed against the Tsilhqot’in people, and to express the government of Canada’s profound regret for those actions,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons, where six modern-day Tsilhqot’in chiefs were invited to witness the apology, according to Tasker.

Read entire article at Smithsonian