Based on survivor accounts, native elders from across British Columbia have long taught that the devastating smallpox epidemics that swept B.C. in 1862/63 were an ethnic cleansing exercise. Natives died by the tens of thousands in only one year. Natives believed that the settler community under Gov. James Douglas intended to kill them in order to impose British institutions without treaties & to seize control of land without paying. As it then did. This period closed with B.C. martyring the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs at a mass hanging in 1864. The Tsilhqot’in had confronted settlers found spreading smallpox, executing some under their laws. They also had killed 14 settlers to prevent the introduction of smallpox at Bute Inlet. In The Great Darkening, preparing for a documentary, Shawn Swanky has created a dramatic narrative from archival records & local traditions that allow the audience to hear the Tsilhqot’in War Leader, settlers, officials & newspapers describe in their own words what happened.
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