1864: Exploring for gold in Skwxwú7mesh country

Gold prospecting depended heavily on Indigenous permission, cooperation, and labour.

cheakamus r

Cheakamus River (image credit: Squamish Chief)

It’s to Alex Code that I’m indebted for the following revealing details of such a foray organized via Chinuk Wawa.

John Hall left the British Columbia territorial capital, New Westminster, at the end of summer in the company of “Old Shnatt” and two other Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (“Squamish” Salish) men, to explore the Cheakamus for gold. This was a few years into the chain of major BC gold rushes.

One of the subjects conveyed to Hall by his guides was that the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people along the way, hearing that he was in search of gold, opined that if any was found, such large numbers of Whites would be coming along as to destroy the First Nations people’s muck-a-muck. (‘Food’ resources.) On the Squamish River, Chief “Ceatholanach” expresses this same point of view. Hall argues back, claiming that the Native people should raise more wapitoes (‘potatoes’) that they could sell to the newcomers for chickamin (‘money’).

The “Sea-Shell” people (the Shíshálh / Sechelt Salish) are understood to be more favourable to gold being discovered on their lands, as long as the Settler government guarantees their own claims thereto.

Keeping watch one night near where some Tsilhqot’in (“Chilcotins”) had recently killed some Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, “Snatt” asks if the tenass musket (‘small gun’) was at the ready.

Hall reaches the camp of a man known as Bok; a Native? They apparently negotiate in Chinuk Jargon, having a long waw-waw (‘conversation’). If any gold was found, Bok was to receive a good potlatch (‘gift’) from the government Tyhees (‘chiefs’) at New Westminster.

This information is extracted from the article headlined “New Westminster Exploring Association” in The British Columbian of September 3, 1864, page 3

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