BC ‘regrets’ historical hanging of aboriginal man

The BC government is making amends to the Hesquiaht First Nation for the wrongful hanging of one of their ancestors 143 years ago.

The BC government is making amends to the Hesquiaht First Nation for the wrongful hanging of one of their ancestors 143 years ago.

B.C. Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong is delivering a notice of regret in person to Hesquiaht officials on Nov. 17 in Port Alberni  at Maht Mahs gym. In her speech, Chong says that the government “regrets” the hanging of John Anietsachist and a man from Mowachaht in 1869 at Friendly Cove.

“It’s not a full apology. They say they regret that our people were made to watch a gross indecency,” Hesquiaht member Richard Lucas said. “We accept that though, because they weren’t the government of the day when it happened. It was the colonial government.”

Discussions about making amends have gone on for more than a year, Chong said in an interview with the News. Her predecessor, MLA Mary Polak, got the government machinery moving that led to Saturday’s upcoming announcement.

Making amends for the past allows everyone to start taking steps into the future, Chong said. “More than anything else this is culturally appropriate and affords the families some closure,” she said.

The expression of regret is not a full apology because few records about the incident can be found. Therefore a complete accounting of the facts isn’t available to determine whether a full apology is warranted or not, Chong said.

The arc of events leading to Saturday’s apology began in 1869 when Anietsachist and his wife found the bodies of a couple who died in a shipwreck on the West Coast. Anietsachist and a man from Mowachaht were ultimately blamed for the couple’s deaths.

Medical officials exhumed the couple’s bodies and a subsequent autopsy found no evidence of murder. But conflicting testimony from two tribe members sealed the fates of Anietsachist and the other man.

Military officials were dispatched to Hesquiaht aboard the MHS Sparrowhawk to retrieve the pair. The Hesquiaht wouldn’t surrender them, so marines fired on the village with their ship’s cannons then burned the settlement.

Anietsachist and his  friend from Mowachaht surrendered and were brought to court in Victoria. “They were found guilty in five minutes then sentenced to hang,” said Hesquiaht member Tim Paul, Anietsachist’s grandson.

Government officials returned the men to Hesquiaht, where they were hanged in front of their families.

The great-great-grandson of the captain of the MHS Sparrowhawk who brought the men back to Hesquiaht to be hanged is coming from the United States to attend Saturday’s ceremony, Lucas said.

The incident is part of the Hesquiaht’s oral narrative handed down through the generations. Pursuing amends hastened in 2008 when a memorial carved pole was raised at Homiss near Estevan Point in honour of Anietsachist.

Making amends has been a long time coming, and writes a new chapter into the oral history, Paul said. “It’s a big step from where we were — sitting and talking about getting an apology,” he said. “It’s finally come to be and it’s about time.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

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

Most Read