Klatsassin And The Chilcotin War Of 1864


Identify Your Topic And Conduct Preliminary Research For Our Class Workshop (Tuesday, November 28)

Include Your Mini-Essay In The Second-Half Portfolio (Due Thursday, December 7)



The MissionTo use the "Chilcotin War" of 1864 as an entry point into exploring a particular question or theme associated with the history of British Columbia on the eve of Confederation.

Recommended Length

2-4 pages double-spaced

(75% of the Second-Half Portfolio Grade)

The PurposeTo engage you as an active historian and thus to introduce you to the excitement and challenges associated with attempting to discern both truth and meaning from the study of the past.

IntroductionOn April 29, 1864, fourteen British Columbians who were helping to build a road from the coast through to the Cariboo Gold Fields were killed by members of the Tsilhqot'in Nation.  Within a month, the death total had reached nineteen.  This represented the deadliest attack by Aboriginals on western colonists in history.  The colonial government responded by sending an armed force of more than one hundred men into the Interior for six weeks in search of Klatsassin, a Tsilhqot'in chief and the reputed ringleader of the uprising.  Ultimately, six natives would be executed.

This assignment asks you to use the Chilcotin War as a focus for learning about nineteenth-century British Columbia.  As was the case with the Angelique and the Burning of Montreal mystery,  the designers of the Klatsassin web-site have brought together primary documents for you.  These include contemporary newspaper accounts, colonial correspondence, trial records, anthropological accounts and oral history. Background context is also provided to help situate you for research.

The ProcedureThe amount of material on the web-site may seem overwhelming.  The expectation, however, is not that you read all the sources provided but that you substantially dip into the on-line archive.

There are six main sections to the web-site: "Home," "Context," "Murder Or War?," "Aftermath,"  "Archives," and "Timeline."  The "Home" section provides an overview of the web-site.  "Context" helps to situate the events of 1864 within a broader framework by providing information about Tsilhqot'in culture, the fur trade, B.C. road-building, the Cariboo Gold Rush and smallpox.  "Murder Or War?" provides documents that might lead to alternate interpretations of the meaning of the Chilcotin War.  "Aftermath" examines the trial of the aboriginals charged with the killings and highlights Tsilhqot'in accounts of the conflict.  It also includes a useful list of characters associated with the Chilcotin War.  The "Archive" indexes all the primary documents, texts and images available on the web-site, though access to these materials is also available in a more organized form in the other pages on the site.  The "Timeline" provides some key dates.

A good starting point for understanding the layout of the web-site can be found on the How To Use This Site page.

I would recommend the following strategy for completing this assignment:

1)  Do some preliminary browsing in the KLATSASSIN AND THE CHILCOTIN WAR web-site.  Familiarize yourself with the site and attempt to identify what most interests you.

2)  Pick a topic.

3)  Begin to research your topic before the Tuesday November 28 class workshop.  Print off relevant material; highlight significant passages; and take some notes, jotting down both facts and your own thoughts as you proceed.

4)  Write up your mini-essay soon after the class workshop.  You should demonstrate that you have read extensively in the archive.  Your paper should include interesting quotations drawn from the source material, and should use historical detail to enrich your own analysis and interpretation.    

Some Possible TopicsListed below are some possible topics for your mini-essay.  Pick one of the suggested topics or choose one of your own design.  Then use the "Klatsassin And The Chilcotin War" web-site as your basic resource for writing a short paper on your topic.