PORT ALBERNI - A feast held today in Port Alberni represents a significant step in healing a 143-year-old wound in the relationship between Hesquiaht First Nation and B.C.
Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Ida Chong and other B.C. government representatives participated in a reconciliation feast at which forgiveness and regret were expressed over the hangings of Anietsachist and Katkinna, in the late 1800s.
Amos family members - descendants of Anietsachist - were on hand at the feast that was organized and hosted by members of the family to close the door on this past hurt, with the hope of beginning a new, more positive relationship with B.C.
For its part, the Amos family offered forgiveness for the role the then-colony played in what many consider a miscarriage of justice that left deep and lasting scars on the Amos family and other Hesquiaht members.
Minister Chong expressed B.C.'s regret that Hesquiaht members had witnessed such violence and conveyed compassion for the Hesquiaht people - in particular, the Amos family.
Also present was Erik Kiaer, whose ancestor Capt. Henry Mist of HMS Sparrowhawk, was closely involved in the events of 1869. Mr. Kiaer travelled from Portland, Oregon for the occasion.
Leading up to today's feast, B.C. provided both assistance in connecting Hesquiaht to Mr. Kiaer and handed over a report for family members containing the information that had been collected by the B.C. government regarding the hangings, as pardons and exonerations are the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Modern commentators and historians have suggested the convictions of Anietsachist and Katkinna may have been aided by faulty translations of Hesquiaht testimony.
Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Ida Chong -
"Today represents a coming together of neighbours, family and government representatives, among others, to bear witness and bring closure to an epic journey that began tragically nearly 150 years ago in the homeland of the Hesquiaht people. The Province expresses its sincere regret and laments that Hesquiaht members - and family in particular - were forced to bear witness to such violence and for the trauma and pain they have endured. It is our hope that from this time forward the relationship between B.C. and the Hesquiaht people is strengthened and flourishes."
Amos family representative, Victor Amos -
"This is a very important day for the Amos family. Using oral history and songs we have kept the story of Anietsachist alive for 143 years and counting, we have never wavered or doubted his innocence. We will take what has happened here today and move forward in good spirit with the Government of British Columbia, all the Hesquiaht families and our special guests secure in the knowledge that our family is strong, our culture is strong and Anietsachist can rest in peace."
- In 1869, the ship John Bright was driven ashore on the west coast of Vancouver Island, outside Hesquiaht Harbour. There were no survivors.
- At the time, Hesquiaht members maintained the crew had died in the wreck. Media and the colonial governor of B.C. asserted the Hesquiaht members killed survivors who swam to shore.
- Despite conflicting testimony, an inquest concluded at least two people - the captain of the John Bright and his wife - were murdered. The inquest was conducted by members of HMS Sparrowhawk.
- John Anietsachist - an ancestor of the Amos family - and Katkinna were convicted of murder, taken back to the Hesquiaht community and hanged in public at a gallows erected on the beach.
- Modern commentators and historians have suggested the convictions may have been aided by faulty translations of Hesquiaht testimony.
- Hesquiaht is a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
For more information about the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, visit: http://www.gov.bc.ca/arr
For information about the Hesquiaht First Nation, visit: http://www.hesquiaht.org
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
250 361 7720 (cell)
Amos Family Representative
250 720-5358 (cell)