Trudeau exonerates hanged war chiefs of 1864 on B.C. Tsilhqot’in title lands

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and TNG Chief Joe Alphonse ride to the meeting place Friday at Xeni Gwet’in where Trudeau exonerated six hanged war chiefs of 1864 before Tsilhqot’in members. Angie Mindus photos

About two hundred Tsilhqot’ins gathered in the Nemiah Valley Friday to witness Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally apology and exonerate six of the Nation’s war chiefs who were hanged in 1864.

It was a picturesque scene at about 1 p.m. when Trudeau and Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG chairman, galloped into the grassy area flanked by snow-capped mountains to start the historic meeting.

Following speeches by the current Tsilhqot’in chiefs, Trudeau took to the microphone, stating he recognized that the war chiefs were only protecting their nation which was under threat by another at the time when they were lured to a meeting in Quesnel by colonial officials for peace talks and were instead arrested, tried and hanged.

“Those were mistakes that our government profoundly regrets and is determined to set right,” Trudeau said.

“The treatment of the Tsilhqot’in chiefs represents a betrayal of trust, an injustice that you have carried for more than 150 years.”

The chiefs that perished on Oct. 26, 1864 near Quesnel were Head War Chief Lhats’as?in (Lhas-awss-een); Chief Biyil (pe-yal); Chief Tellot (tay-lot); Chief Tahpitt (ta-peet); Chief Chayses (chay-sus); and Chief Ahan (a-han) who was hanged in New Westminister in 1865.

Those who took part in the day Friday said they felt happy about the exoneration from Canada, but also sad that their war chiefs had to give their lives to protect their lands. He said they hoped now they rest in peace.

Chief Joe Alphonse said the meeting on traditional lands was an enjoyable, relaxing experience for him compared to going to Ottawa in March to the House of Commons where Trudeau first formally exonerated the war chiefs.

Read More: Prime Minister Trudeau formally exonerates Tsilhqot’in war chiefs

He said he was very pleased that the Prime Minister accepted the invitation to come to the title lands so that the TNG members could hear for themselves the exoneration.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua thanked Trudeau for coming to title lands and said he was proud of his Tsilhqot’in people.

“I’m so excited to keep moving forward and it’s an honour and I thank Justin Trudeau for being the first prime minister to come to title lands and to set history right.”

Chief Russell Myers Ross said he hoped the apology would allow for meaningful government-to-government work moving forward.

After the formal apology and exoneration, the Nation presented Trudeau with a special gift — a replica of the buckskin jacket given to his father which was made at that time by Tsilhqot’in member Julie Gilpin. Julie was on hand to present the new jacket, made by her daughter Denise Gilpin, to Trudeau.

“It fits perfect,” Trudeau said, smiling and noting all his dad’s jackets were small for him.

Trudeau then made his way into the crowd to greet as many people as he could before making the long journey back to Williams Lake by vehicle, the same way he came in, and flying out of the airport there.

Payel Laceese, a grandson to Julie and son to Denise, said he hoped the meeting would bring healing.

“Our people can let that go without there being that grudge,” he said, adding he felt there was a special connection with Trudeau, due to the history with the jacket.

“It’s not just a nation-to-nation relationship, it’s family-to-family.”

Former Xeni Gwet’in chief Annie Williams also thought the meeting was exceptional.

“It’s hard to believe he was here,” she said as the convoy pulled away. “It felt like he was one of us.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A past extreme weather response shelter set up for women inside Surrey’s Nightshift Street Ministries. (Photo: Chris Paul/nightshiftministries.org)
Homeless people in Surrey face ‘shocking and scary’ scenario this winter

Last winter there were nine Extreme Weather Response shelters in all of Surrey and White Rock. So far, during this pandemic, there are only five lined up for the coming winter

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
No new Surrey school COVID-19 exposures reported overnight

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

File photo
Surrey Mounties seeking dash-cam footage of Whalley road rage fight

Two men are alleged to have stabbed one another

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Fleetwood teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read