Colonists and Contradictions
When the British government established a colony on Vancouver Island in 1849, incoming colonists held such strong preconceived notions of "the savage Indian" that actually coming to Vancouver Island did little to change their ideas. Robin Fisher points out that all Europeans saw Natives differently, and could often be inconsistent in their views of different cultures.3 The British Colonist articles about the smallpox epidemic support this view. One article mentioned "the savage superstition that instinctively leaves the diseased to suffer and die uncared for and alone."4 A later article discussed the Haida "humanely taking all their sick with them" when they left their camp.5
Although his wife was part Native, Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken also provides inconsistent views of Native people. In his memoirs, he remarked,
In a civilized sense they were a shocking bad lot, but after becoming acquainted one found in them much to admire, their manliness, boldness, bravery, war tendencies and aggressiveness being just what we admire in our own countrymen and ancestors. Their conduct to their friends and the peaceful condition of villages, their faithfulness, must come in for a big share of praise. Untamed, they were open and intelligent, not sneaks. They had plenty to eat, homes to live in, fire and clothing; in fact were provident, self-reliant, as so far well to do. Have civilized [men] much more?
This view was patronizing, but also admiring. However, on the next page, he remarked, "Nevertheless, they are Indians still. The breed remains, and will require a great deal of crossing to make a superior race."6
These contradictions show how these men could make observations about Natives that were quite positive. As soon as they began to discuss their preconceived ideas about "savage superstitions" and "superior races," their views became unreasonably negative.