What did Europeans see of the native people when they first arrived in BC? From the National Post: Everyone was dead: When Europeans first came to B.C., they stepped into the aftermath of a holocaust.
Everywhere they looked, there were corpses. Abandoned, overgrown villages were littered with skulls; whole sections of coastline strewn with bleached, decayed bodies.
“The skull, limbs, ribs and backbones, or some other vestiges of the human body, were found in many places, promiscuously scattered about the beach in great numbers,” wrote explorer George Vancouver in what is now Port Discovery, Wash.
It was May 1792. The lush environs of the Georgia Strait had once been among the most densely populated corners of the land that is now Canada, with humming villages, harbours swarming with canoes and valleys so packed with cookfires that they had smog.
But the Vancouver Expedition experienced only eerie quiet.
They kept seeing rotting houses and massive clearings cut out of the Pacific forest — evidence that whoever lived here had been able to muster armies of labourers.
And yet the only locals the sailors encountered were small groups of desperately poor people, many of them horribly scarred and missing an eye. [continue]
- Voices of Disaster: Smallpox around the Strait of Georgia in 1782 – jstor.org
- The Spirit of Pestilence: The Smallpox Epidemic in Victoria in 1862 – uvic.ca
- Smallpox in the Pacific Northwest: The First Epidemics by Robert Boyd – UBC Library
- Smallpox Epidemic of 1862 among Northwest Coast and Puget Sound Indians – historylink.org
- The smallpox winter for B.C.’s Indigenous Regimes: the St’at’imc – shawnswanky.com
- Smallpox -MuseumOfHealthcare.ca