Updated: Oct 25
British Columbia Chiefs travel to London, England to present a petition to the British King.
"Three Chiefs and an Interpreter Prepare to Meet the British King"
Photo Clip: The Sphere (1906)
Left to Right: Simon Pierre, Interpreter (later Chief); Chief Charley Tsilpaymilt of the Cowichan Tribe on Vancouver Island; Chief Joe Capilano; and Chief Basil of the Bonaparte Tribe of Ashcroft
In 1906, Indian Chief Joe Capilano of Squamish travelled to tribes throughout British Columbia seeking their support for a petition he intended to deliver to King Edward VII himself ...in England.
"The Petition: A Voice of Thousands"
Clip: Vancouver Daily World (1906)
The petition was meant to urge the British King to protect coastal game reserves, fearing that if BC's wild animals continued to be killed at the present rate, the tribes would be in danger of starvation come wintertime. More importantly, the petition was to protest the encroachment of settlers on their ancient fishing and hunting preserves on which they depended for their existence and had failed to obtain redress from the local authorities. By early summer, Chief Joe had garnered enough support to begin his journey to England.
With a petition in his pocket representing the voice of almost two hundred thousand British Columbians, Chief Joe's trip got underway. Accompanying him were fellow Chiefs Charley of the Cowichan Tribe on Vancouver Island and Basil of the Bonaparte Tribe in Ashcroft. And even though the Chiefs were almost fluent in English, they brought along an interpreter named Pierre Simon who could sort out any difficulties they might encounter along the way. The object of their visit was to lay before the 'Great White Chief' the grievances of their tribesmen and to plead for the restoration of certain native customs. After travelling for 31 days, the three Chiefs arrived in England to find that the King was out of town.
"Old Friend and Warm Welcome"
Photo Clip: Victoria Times (1906)
Discovering that simply dropping in on a King might be a little more challenging than anticipated, the three Chiefs found some luck when out of the blue, an old friend of Chief Joe appeared in London. Nichol Thompson, a prominent Vancouver steel and iron man who knew the Chief well, heard about the journey of the Chiefs and sought them out to assist them with meeting the King. Thompson brought the Chiefs to the office of Lord Strathcona, where much of the work required to meet the King was processed. At some point, the Chiefs learned that the King was somewhat powerless regarding land matters in Canada. But even still, they wished to meet the King.
Photo Clip: Daily Mirror (1906)
The Chiefs waited for almost a week, not knowing whether the King would receive them upon returning to London. But they filled their days in the company of an old friend, Henry Allingham. Allingham was a CPR telegraph man who had recently left Vancouver to live in England with his family. He had left behind a world of organized lacrosse which he had helped establish on both coasts of Canada. His cane was a parting gift from his fellow Vancouverites. Allingham's cheerful company suited the Chiefs' interpreter Simon Pierre well as he was a lacrosse player who was desperately missing his sport for the sake of the trip. Allingham would later become the lead referee for Ottawa's team at the London Olympics the following year.
"A Tour of London"
Clip: Victoria Times (1906)
Allingham accompanied the Chiefs on tours throughout the city of London. They visited the famous Museum of Madame Tussaud and spent time at the London Zoo. But what fascinated the Chiefs most was Westminster Abbey, where they saw the impressive tombs of the English Kings.
"The Way to Buckingham Palace"
Photo Clip: The Graphic (1906)
After a week of touring the city and being welcomed wherever they went, the King finally returned to London and summoned the Chiefs to meet with him at Buckingham Palace. They couldn't believe it. A photo was taken of Chief Charley and Chief Joe in their traditional dress as they left the Soldier's Home at Buckingham Gate where they had been staying. It was a photo that made the front page of The Graphic, and it made the Chiefs, their trip and their cause quite well known around the world. When the King entered the Throne Room where the Chiefs had been waiting for him, they were stunned to see that Queen Alexandra of Denmark had also joined their meeting.
"The Royal Reception"
When the King arrived, he walked across the room and offered each Chief a warm and welcoming handshake. He then introduced them to his Queen. Chief Joe opened his suitcase containing baskets weaved by his young daughter Emma which he offered to the Queen as a gift. She was happy to receive them and asked the Chief's young daughter to be thanked for her kindness. After 15 minutes and a few pleasantries, the Chiefs' meeting with the King and Queen was over.
Although Chief Joe did not get his chance to present the petition, the King introduced the three Chiefs to someone who could consider their grievances on his behalf.
"The Return Home to Vancouver, BC"
Photo Clip: (tbd)
The journey of the Chiefs was met with praise from the thousands who showed up on the streets of Vancouver to celebrate their return. They had failed to present the petition of thousands to the King, but their brave hearts had widespread influence on their people and subsequent Indigenous leaders for decades to follow.
Photo Clip: The Province (1910)
Both the King and Chief Joe Capilano died a few years later in 1910. Both received funeral processions fit for a King.
Emma, Chief Joe's daughter and the maker of the baskets for the Queen, is shown in this photo with a photograph of her father meeting the Royal couple. It is a signed copy that the Royals sent to all three Chiefs a year later to commemorate their meeting.