B.C. Amos Card Youmans circa 1800 uniface 25 Cents Copper Token
Lot 188 in our auction Saturday 8th May 2021
A.C. YOUMANS / 25¢
(reeded border) B R 24, TC-528882 [CA1]; Amos Card Youmans
Amos Card Youmans was a trader operating out of Hazelton in Tsimshian and Gitxsan lands along the Skeena river. He was murdered in Hazelton in 1884 by Haatq a Gitxsan. This tragic event was one of the flashpoints that led to hostilities along the Skeena between First Nations, Miners and the B.C. Government.
Haatq was the father of a son who had drowned while on a canoe expedition with a group of traders headed by a white merchant named Amos Card Youmans. Apparently, Youmans had returned from the canoe trip in which a young man had accidentally drowned and stayed with the young man’s friends for a few days, without mentioning the loss. He came under suspicion therefore and when the boy’s father, Haatq, learned of the death he was straight to Youmans and killed him.
In Gitxsan law the circumstances of the killing needed to be taken into account. Youmans had been under an obligation to report the death to the family, he was under an obligation to offer compensation, gifts. He did none of these things.
Haatq was arrested by the police and taken all the way to Victoria while white miners clamoured for his immediate hanging at the Forks of the Skeena. Gitxsan chiefs wrote to the Justices at Victoria asking for clemency in view of tribal custom. However since in 1858 Governor Douglas had passed into law a statute requiring that murder cases in British Columbia be resolved according to English law Haatq was tried under English law, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death which was commuted to life imprisonment Haatq died a few years into the term and his treatment created much bitterness amongst First Nations.
The Living Law of Aboriginal Communities: The Git’ksan and Injurious Conduct:
“There was, of course, more to the story than this. Transporting heavy loads up and down the Skeena was a dangerous business, and relations between the Gitksan and the local miners and traders were uneven. Moreover, both Haatq and Youmans had experienced death and compensation before. The different sources are not entirely consistent, but it appears that a few years earlier Haatq had lost a nephew in a similar incident, but on that occasion the trader involved had not only immediately informed Haatq but had also paid for the search for the body, the burial, and the dead young man’s wages up to the time that the canoes reached the Forks without him.
There is also some evidence — albeit inadmissible at Haatq’s trial — that Youmans had himself paid compensation for a man killed in his employ, and there is no doubt that he was familiar with this aspect of Gitksan law. He was in fact married to a Gitksan woman, and would have known that this ‘would make the Indians … more readily think that he was subject to their law, and notwithstanding in case of his death his children would have to be taken over by the tribe as their own under a well known tribal law, he would not be spared if he did not act rightly in the matter.’ (pp.41-42)
It is risky in the extreme to generalize about law, much less about the laws of a group of human beings as diverse as the Indian peoples of North America. However, the following attempt by Professor Reid is a succinct and useful one. There was a principle, he states, ‘widely held among the Indian nations, of a duty — sometimes privileged, possessed by certain members of the nation, often kin folk of a specific lineage or of a defined degree — to retaliate in kind for the killing of a member of the nation or kin group. Often that principle was coupled with the doctrine of an individual liability upon the person who was the “cause” of the homicide, and a collective responsibility upon all members of his or her kin group, whether a household, and extended family, or a clan.’ (p.53)”
The Living Law of Aboriginal Communities: The Git’ksan and Injurious Conduct
Also thanks to
Two “White” Perspectives on Indigenous Resistance: Emily Carr’s Klee Wyck, the RCMP, and Title to the Kitwancool Valley in 1927