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Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years

Early Relations

Explorations: Assistance and Resistance

Aboriginal people assisted European explorers, sharing their detailed knowledge of the land, as well as their diplomatic and survival skills. In some cases, however, Europeans were met with armed resistance.

Matonabbee - Matonabbee was an important Chipewyan figure, born around 1737. He was active in Fort Churchill for much of his life, eventually learning Cree and English and working closely with the traders. He had been raised at Fort Churchill and even though he was to become one of the most productive trappers and middlemen at Fort Churchill, he felt a close tie to the Company and to the European agents. Matonabbee was instrumental in negotiating and maintaining peace between the Cree and Chipewyan groups in the mid-18th century. He is better known for his guiding and ambassador role during the Samuel Hearne expeditions, especially the voyage to the mouth of the Coppermine River in 1770-72. Matonabbee also took on middleman and trading captain roles during his time in Fort Churchill. As such, he was recognized as having provided the post with more furs than any other man, and was declared a leading Indian by the fur traders. According to the journal of Andrew Graham, Matonabbee committed suicide while grieving that the French had destroyed Churchill Factory, in 1782.

Thanadelthur - Called "Slave Woman" by the Hudson's Bay Company, Thanadelthur was a Chipewyan woman who had been captured by the Cree and had escaped in 1714. She tried to return to her home but had to turn back in bad weather. She arrived at York Factory, near death, and was allowed to recover at the post. In 1715-16, she guided William Stuart and a group of Homeguard Cree to Chipewyan territory with plans of making peace between the Cree and Chipewyan. This would have allowed the Chipewyan to come to York Factory to trade. The journey was extremely difficult and the parties were reluctant to make peace. Thanadelthur managed to convince everyone of the benefits of peace. Thanadelthur went back to York Factory with William Stuart and became an important figure at the post, becoming personally involved in the trade. She became fluent in English and already knew Cree. She informed the Chipewyan about how to prepare their pelts for trading and provided information to the fur traders on Chipewyan territory and resources. Thanadelthur died young. She fell ill in January 1717 and died in February of that year. Chief Factor James Knight wrote: "She was one of a Very high Spirit and of the Firmest Resolution that ever I see any Body in my Days, of great Courage and forecast....."

1864 Tsilhqot'in Uprising - "We meant war, not murder" - In 1864, a band of Tsilhqot'in, under the leadership of Lhatsas'in, killed thirteen white men who had been building a road into the interior of British Columbia from Bute Inlet, along with one white settler who had usurped a Tshilhqot'in camp. The road was being built to speed access to the Cariboo gold fields. Evidence given at trial revealed that the Tsilhqot'in, who had not developed close relationships with the fur traders, were fearful that the whites would kill them with their diseases. A smallpox epidemic along the coast two years earlier had killed a large number of Tsilhqot'in. In the minds of the men involved in the attacks, they were waging war against the whites in an attempt to keep them out of their territory. A band of special constables assembled in New Westminster moved into the Cariboo region searching for the Tsilhquot'in but were unsuccessful. Finally, Lhatsas'in and others agreed to meet with William Cox, the Gold Commissioner. Lhatsas'in and his men were arrested, tried in Quesnel and all were hanged for murder. In 1999, a ceremony was held commemorating the 125th anniversary of the hanging. At this time, the British Columbia government recognized that the killings were acts of war, rather than murders.

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