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Monday, July 12, 2021

Chief Louis of Kamloops


EN:UNDEF:public_image_official_caption Chief Louis Clexlixqen

Source: Link

CLEXLIXQEN, LOUIS (Xlexxle’xken, Klicktickkun, Tlihtlihen, Hatakun, Little Louis, Petit Louis), HBC employee, farmer, and Shuswap chief; b. 1828 at Tk’emlul’pe7 (Kamloops, B.C.); m. first Eugenie, and they had two daughters; m. secondly Marie, widow of Abraham Larue, who had six children; d. 12 April 1915 in Kamloops.

As a young man, Little Louis occasionally worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He is mentioned in the journals of Thompson’s River Post (Kamloops) as an express rider, guide, and trader. A horse owner as early as 1855, he had begun farming by 1863, when he first traded potatoes to the HBC; in 1874 he threshed 16 tons of grain. In 1877, when the Indian reserve commission [see Gilbert Malcolm Sproat] took an inventory of farm stock and equipment, he appears as one of the wealthiest members of the Kamloops band of the Shuswap (an Interior Salish tribe). He owned 30 horses, 25 cattle, 30 pigs, and 50 hens.

Louis had become chief of the Kamloops band about 1852 and would serve as hereditary chief (a classification made by the Department of Indian Affairs) until his death. He converted to Roman Catholicism in the early 1860s and about 1866 he became a church chief (an appointment within the village council system instituted by Oblate missionaries). That year Oblate priest Pierre Richard commended him for cooperating in the enforcement of church precepts. 

In 1872 Father Florimond Gendre reported that Louis had raised the money to build a church on the Kamloops Reserve. Louis consistently supported education: he had encouraged Shuswap children to attend the residential school at the Okanagan mission in the late 1860s, assisted the Oblates in establishing a day-school on the Kamloops Reserve in 1880, and initiated the residential school built there in 1890. It was likely his influence that allowed the Oblates to assume control of it in 1893. 

Louis learned to write the Chinook Jargon in shorthand from Father Jean-Marie-Raphaël Le Jeune* and was taken to Rome to display his abilities to the pope. As church chief, he presided over the village council under the assumptive authority of the church. The relationship, however, was not always smooth. In a series of letters between 1873 and 1877 to Oblate superior Bishop Louis-Joseph d’Herbomez*, Father Charles Grandidier had noted the poor example Louis set by his fondness for drinking, gambling, and horse-racing, and by his irresponsibility in performing church duties. Fearful of violence, Grandidier was also alarmed at Louis’s persistent role in the native agitation surrounding land claims.

Shuswap and other interior Indians had accepted reserves in 1861 but in 1866 saw them cut in size by Joseph William Trutch*, chief commissioner of lands and works for British Columbia. This reduction, combined with gold-mining, immigration to the Kamloops district, and diminished access to grazing lands, caused significant dissatisfaction. Although Louis was responsive to the opportunities which these changes offered, he was also constantly vigilant, one of a handful of interior chiefs, among them Johnnie Chilleheetsa of Douglas Lake and Basil Dick of Bonaparte, who would persistently attempt to protect the interests of their bands. 

The first recorded meeting of protest by the Shuswap was held on 16 Nov. 1873 at the Bonaparte Reserve. For the next four years Louis was unflagging in his efforts to forge a confederacy or, if necessary, a military alliance of the Shuswap, Thompson River, and Okanagan tribes to obtain justice on the land issue. In 1876 Grandidier, who warned of “a plot between the Similkameen, Okanagan, and Shuswap to put all to blood and fire” if the question was not resolved, identified Louis as a leading provocateur. Louis had the opportunity to lay his case before Governor General Lord Dufferin [Blackwood*] in September 1876 when he visited Kamloops. The next summer the Indian reserve commission met with him and other band members and agreed to enlarge their reserve to meet the band’s requirements for stock raising and farming. Thereafter, to support their claim of title, Louis represented the interior Indians in Ottawa on numerous occasions and was part of a delegation sent to present the case to Queen Victoria. He was active in the establishment in 1909 of the Interior Tribes of British Columbia, which petitioned Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the matter at Kamloops the following year, and he signed the organization’s petition of 10 May 1911 to Minister of the Interior Frank Oliver*. Because the royal commission on Indian affairs for the province of British Columbia refused to discuss the issue of title in its hearings in 1913 [see James Andrew Joseph McKenna], Louis focused his testimony on the inviolability of the reserve boundaries established in 1877.

Louis was a highly public figure in both the Indian and the white communities of Kamloops. He enjoyed racing and parading his well-bred horses, participating in sporting events, and meeting, in full equestrian display, visiting dignitaries. Louis died in 1915 and was buried on his reserve in the cemetery of St Joseph’s Church. In a display of respect not often accorded native leaders, the Kamloops Standard described him as “a man of keen intelligence, [who was] very diplomatic in all business connected with the interests of his people.”

Written by Duane Thomson

[Details concerning the Kamloops band were provided by Dr Marianne Boelscher Ignace, a linguist fluent in the Shuswap language and married to a Shuswap native.  d.t.]

Arch. Deschâtelets, Oblats de Marie-Immaculée (Ottawa), records of the Oblate missions in British Columbia (mfm. at Univ. of B.C. Library, Vancouver). BCARS, A/B/20/K12; A/C/20/K12. Kamloops Museum and Arch. (Kamloops, B.C.), Mary Balf, “Chief Louis of Kamloops” (1971). NA, RG 31, C1, 1881, 1891, Kamloops (mfm. in Okanagan Univ. College Library, Kelowna, B.C.). Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (Vancouver), “Evidence submitted to the royal commission on Indian affairs for the province of British Columbia” (typescript, [1913–16]; photocopy in Okanagan Univ. College Library), Kamloops, 28 Oct. 1913. Kamloops Standard, 12 April 1915. Kenneth Favrholdt, Kamloops, meeting of the waters: an illustrated history (Burlington, Ont., 1989).


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