by Grant Keddie
One of the great tragedies in the history of British Columbia is the small pox epidemic of 1862 which killed tens of thousands of native people. The disease spread from San Francisco to Victoria where the deaths occurred mostly among native people visiting from the northern coast. As the Northerners returned home the disease spread along the coast through the interior of the colonies causing major destruction in native villages. A chronological summary of the events in Victoria is presented here:
April 26 - Small pox appears among 300 Tsimshian camped in the inner harbor. Natives inquire if the disease is meant to wipe them out and allow others to get their land.
April 28 - Several deaths have occurred. Rev. Garrett is building a small pox hospital on the Songhees reserve to the west of the Royal Hospital on Songhees Point. Over 500 natives have been vaccinated during the past six weeks. Isolated cases of small pox have appeared in recent years but nothing of the epidemic proportions since the outbreaks of the 1770s and 1830s.
The Songhees are leaving for the Discovery and San Juan Islands to avoid the disease. Mr. Pemberton, the Commissioner of Police, is ordering the immediate removal of all natives in Victoria, with the exception of those who are in the employment of the whites. The Tsimshian are given one day to leave and one of the naval gunboat "will take up a position opposite the camp to expedite their departure".
Digitized with permission from: