ROTHENBURGER – The Chilcotin War and the rewriting of Canada’s history

Recreation of attack on pack train during Chilcotin War. (Image: Royal B.C. Museum)

THE JUSTIN TRUDEAU government, assisted by all opposition parties, this week completed a masterful rewriting of history.

The prime minister joined with speakers for the Conservatives, NDP, Greens and even the Bloc in apologizing for the execution of six murderers who were hanged 154 years ago, after which he hugged representatives of the Tsilhqot’in Nation on the floor of the House.

The so-called Chilcotin War of 1864 makes for an intriguing story about the clash between British colonists and First Nations — so much so that I wrote a book about it — but the facts have been so twisted for political purposes as to become almost unrecognizable.

Drawing of chief believed to be Klatassine.

From childhood, today’s Tsilhqot’in are taught that the Chilcotin War was a war of honour fought by brave warriors protecting their people and their land.

The basis for this week’s exoneration, which follows not one but two B.C. apologies (one in 1999 by the NDP government and another in 2014 by the Liberal government), is based on that same interpretation.

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Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6465 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – The Chilcotin War and the rewriting of Canada’s history

  1. David Johnson // March 31, 2018 at 2:12 PM // Reply

    I wont argue any other point in this piece, as the facts not only sound more reasonable than the apologising, responsibility taking rhetoric from todays politicians … that said, there is one sentence you used that I will take issue with;

    “Though their presence may have been seen by some Tsilhqot’ins as representative of past wrongs, they didn’t see themselves as invaders.”

    History is stuffed full of examples of invaders attacking and destroying neighbours or entire civilisations, who actually saw themselves as liberators or more often than not as a means to bring the ‘heathens’ under the thumb of belief, be it lifestyle or religion.

    Cortés and the Spanish destruction of the Aztecs as a means to introduce the christian religion, or Hitlers belief in his ‘better world’, or China’s invasion of Tibet, or even the U.S. invasion of Iraq in ’03, and many many more, including the belief behind the institution of our own residential schools. All were attempts to make change because ‘we are right and they are wrong’ … an automatic consequence of a singular belief fostered in a vacuum; the history and ideology of the defender is unseen and irrelevant.

    This Tsilhqot’in example is a poor example of this, but the argument is worth suggesting as the use of the word invaders does not always mean by use of sword or gun. A shovel and pickaxe can also be seen as weapons of change from the view of those who prefer it to be as it always was.

    Obviously a bunch of road builders do not see themselves as ‘invaders’, but in essence they were the front lines of unwanted change by the incumbent residents, following the ideology that all will be ‘better off’ … the calling card of the oppressor, from the perspective of the oppressed.

    jes’ keepin’ ya honest.

  2. History with a feminist spin?

  3. Thanks for this article. Would like to get your book, The Chilcotin War to read

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