Arthur McCallum to Frederick Chesson, 22 October 1886, C141/136

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McCallum, Arthur









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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C141-136


Victoria British Columbia
22nd October 1886

My dear Mr Chesson,

Next week the H.M.S. ‘Cormorant’ will leave this for Metlakathla mission station to coerce the indians there. They demand but a legal enquiry into the rights of their case in stopping the surveying party from the survey of their lands before the promised enquiry they formerly asked for is made by this government. They are now to have force backed by gunpowder in place of justice, and this injustice will naturally in the indian nature breed revenge.

It is to be the deliberate manufacture of another miserable little indian war to enable a ritualistic bishop with a nominal following to oust a nonconformist minister who amongst these tribes has been a second ‘Moffat.’

When injustice is resisted (if is be resisted) I presume the authorities here will more or less with equal injustice hold Mr Duncan responsible, so I write before the event.

I have recently been at ‘Metlakathla’ more than once, and I speak from direct knowledge of the circumstances. The indians believe they have the legal right to expel trespassers from their reserve in a legal manner, there has as yet been no treaty made with them, but Sir James Douglas a former governor of British Columbia whose wife was of Indian race, caused without treaty the present reserve of five miles by ten miles to be marked out as a special reserve to these particular indians inside of which no white man could intrude … on sufferance, and neither the Church Missionary Society of London as represented by Bishop Ridley, or any noncomformist minister as is Mr Duncan could claim any legal title to any portion of this land because permitted by the indians to erect houses upon it, and I hold that any such missionaries are there on sufference only whilst living within this indian reserve.

The indian reserve upon Victoria harbor has recently in arbitrary fashion been make over to the local railway company, and the indians on the mainland at Metlakathla who know this may reasonably expect that the survey party who wish to survey their reserve (for the projected railway to Fort Simpson above them possibly) may at a future date act in like manner towards themselves.

There indians of the Duncan mission are thoroughly civilized. Previous to the advent of Mr Duncan live dog devouring and other abominations were in full swing amongst them.

They now follow various trades besides cultivating and live in two story cottages and are clothes as decently as the whites. In indirect taxation on the goods and stuff they buy they pay the government probably not less than £5 five pounds a head per annum. They are able to conduct their own simple church service themselves in their own language and the harmonium in their church is played by no less than three different indians at times. The place is the chief focus of indian civilization in these parts.

The next thing the D-d indian will want when you have civilized him and appropriated his territory within the Canadas will be a vote. This sort of thing must be nipped in the bud so send blue jackets with rifles to improve this opportunity, throw all the responsibility on the Revd Duncan and if there be bloodshed place him at the bar and try him for conspiracy with the natives against the government.

Having no religious prejudices I write as no partisan of either side, but with a sincere feeling of regret, and when future telegrams reach you as to the course events take, then use this letter as you please.

Yours truly
Arthur … McCallum
Seems to blame the missionaries

Doesn’t reflect Duncan’s argument for indigenous title, only seeks that their reserve be maintained

Blames local land grabbers

He does put a significant emphasis on their civility.