B.C. regrets long-ago hangings
PORT ALBERNI, B.C.—The British Columbia government has expressed regret to the family of a First Nations’ man who was wrongfully hanged on a Vancouver Island beach nearly 150 years ago.
Aboriginal Affairs minister Ida Chong participated in a feast of reconciliation with the Hesquiaht First Nation on Saturday, and band members forgave the actions of the colonial government in 1869.
The men were accused of murdering two people who had been shipwrecked on the island, but historians have suggested faulty translations of Hesquiaht testimony played a part in their convictions.
Chong said the province regrets that the Hesquiaht people were forced to watch such violence, and generations since then have endured the pain of what happened to Anietsachist and his friend.
“With all our government was doing with respect to other First Nations—with reconciliation, with recognition, with respect—we felt that this was one area that had to be dealt with before we could move forward with any other matters,” Chong said from a ceremony with the Hesquiaht and other bands.
The expression of regret, and not an apology, was fitting because British Columbia did not officially become a province until 1871, Chong added.
“It’s about some closure to the pain they have been feeling.
“Every generation hereafter, when they hear the story of what happened, now they can plug in this chapter and say, ‘But on this day, what took place was an offer from the province of regret and an offer from the Hesquiaht of forgiveness.”’
Victor Amos, 60, said his family has kept the story about his great-great-great-grandfather Anietsachist’s innocence alive for 143 years through oral stories and songs passed down to the Hesquiaht First Nation, a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.
Amos said his family decided about eight years ago that they wanted to clear Anietsachist’s name and approached the government about a year-and-a-half ago to try and make that happen.
“The acknowledgment of the wrongdoing is phenomenal,” he remarked.
“Now, rather than just my family believing my great-great-great grandfather was innocent, now the broader community believes that,” added Amos, who performed a dance at a gathering that attracted hundreds of people from neighbouring First Nations.