War, Massacre, or Terrorism?


A critical thinkin' challenge fer students, ages 16-18


In thar sprin' o'1864 a series o'killin's sent a chill across Canada. Yonder blood o'14 men, spilled into yonder Homathco Ri'er before dawn on ye mornin' o'April 29th, 1864, was only ye beginnin' o'this conflict. By t'end o'May, 19 road-builders, packers, an' a farmer were dead. Within six weeks an army o'over 100 men had arri'ed in yonder area t'catch thar killers.

Thar killin's took place in a remote triangle in central British Columbia that, at t'ime, was inaccessible by road or even horse trail. Yonder dead men had all been part o'yonder teams tryin' t'build a road from yonder Pacific coast t' recently disco'ered goldfields o'thar Cariboo.

This area was traditional territory o't' Tsilhqot’in people who had li'ed on t'high Chilcotin Plateau fer centuries, p'raps fer thousands o'years. Yonder sur'ivors o'ye attacks identified ye principal leader o't' more than 20 people in'olved in ye killin's as a Tsilhqot’in chief, who was called “Klatsassin” by his people.

Historians have variously called this incident a war, a massacre, or an act o'terrorism. But which be it? Soldiers who kill many others durin' t'course o'war be not likely t'be punished fer these killin's; in fact they may be honoured fer these actions. Committin' yonder same killin's outside ye context o'war would likely result in serious consequences. But here again it may depend whether thar killers were actin' on behalf o'their people t'brin' about a desired political goal, or simply actin' fer personal gain or re'enge. In short, thar be much at stake in decidin' upon t'kind o'incident. Ye will be in'ited t'examine selected historical documents from t'ime an' draw yer own conclusions about which term — war, massacre, or terrorism — most fairly describes this e'ent.

Ye Task

This MysteryQuest in'ites ye t'assess ye underlyin' nature o'a violent conflict between whites an' First Nations peoples in 1864. Was t'killin' o'ye road crew an act o'terrorism by yonder Tsilhqot’in t'discourage further trade an' traffic in yonder area? Or were they defendin' their territory against an in'adin' population? P'raps they were a'engin' yonder deaths o'their people who were killed by thar European introduction o'smallpox years earlier?

Ye will begin by considerin' t'differences between thar terms “war,” “massacre,” an' “terrorism.” Ye will read about ye background t'his incident an' then examine historical documents lookin' fer statements that suggest how this e'ent should be described. Finally, ye will decide on t'most appropriate term an' explain yer choice in a 'un-page essay.

continue in'estigation ….

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