Media Links:

Background video to the exoneration:

Canada/Tsilhqot’in Letter of Understanding (January 2017):

TNG/Canada Press Release - Announcement of Exoneration:

Statement from Premier of BC:

Province of BC Exoneration Speech 2014:

History of Chilcotin War by Tom Swanky:

Tsilhqot’in Drumming fills House of Commons during Historic Session 


Chief Russell Myers Ross

Late in March 2018 the Tsilhqot’in Nation proudly announced that the Government of Canada has officially exonerated our six Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs who were wrongfully arrested, tried and hanged during the Chilcotin War of 1864/65.

In a historic and unprecedented event, the six current Chiefs of the Tsilhqot’in Nation were welcomed onto the floor of the House of Commons while in session. All 338 MPs and the Speaker of the House unanimously passed a motion brought by the Tsilhqot’in Nation itself. This motion opened the floor of the House to the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs and acknowledged the protocols of the Tsilhqot’in Nation in the form of a drum song performed by a Tsilhqot’in youth ambassador as a formal response to the Government of Canada’s exoneration of the Tsilhqot’in war Chiefs.  

Furthermore, in setting the standard for a new Nation to Nation relationship, the Prime Minister committed to visiting the Tsilhqot’in Nation on Aboriginal title land later this year to deliver the statement of exoneration directly to the Tsilhqot’in people.

The six War Chiefs were warriors and regarded as heroes by the Tsilhqot’in people.  The exoneration of the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs is an essential step towards healing for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and for Canada, and the commitment to a more just future.

The sacrifice and bravery demonstrated by the six Tsilhqot’in Chiefs has come to define us as Tsilhqot’in people. The Chilcotin War and the defence of our lands and culture led by the Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs played a significant role in the precedent setting Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing Aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history to a portion of our territory. 

The six Chiefs’ sacrifice continue to inspire and guide the work of the Tsilhqot’in Nation as we work together to honour our ancestors and build a better future for our children and grandchildren, filled with pride and hope.  

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot’in National Government, said, "Our people’s journey to this place of reconciliation has been long and enduring. 154 years have passed where our truth has gone unrecognized. Under a flag of truce our Chiefs were wrongfully shackled, tried and hanged. We have always been proud of the sacrifices made by our Chiefs, who are heroes to our people, and continue to inspire and guide the work of the future.  Today Canada has finally acknowledged that our warriors did no wrong."

Chief Alphonse continued, “The Chilcotin War has defined us as who we are today – building our spirit and shaping our perseverance. The deceit we faced 154 years ago can never be forgotten, but we can move forward on a different path, a new journey, one carved out by a mutual understanding and respect of our rights, title and ways of life. We are prepared to work with Canada to transform the lives of our people and this country - in a way that ensures our children will not have to see such things as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, high Indigenous incarceration rates or over representation of Indigenous children in the foster care system."

National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations, said, "This exoneration is a powerful and important moment. Reconciliation requires that we take an honest look at our shared past, because for First Nations that past still impacts us today. I am proud to stand with the Tsilhqot’in to witness this event. I lift them up in their ongoing efforts towards truth, justice and understanding."

Chief Russell Myers Ross, Vice-Chair, Tsilhqot’in National Government, said, "In many ways, the Tsilhqot’in Nation is not part of Canada. We were never part of any form of confederation in 1871. This, along with our treatment as Indigenous peoples, has placed us outside of the governing body called Canada."

Chief Ross continued, "Our collective identity as Nenqayni - people of the Earth – is one that has defined Canada through the absence and denial of our rightful place. It is time for Canada to recognize the Tsilhqot’in as an integral part of Canada – as caretakers of the land and the rightful governing body of its peoples. The exoneration of our Chilcotin War Chiefs is the first step in working to heal a past defined by denial and open up a future defined by truth and relationships that will help our Nation restore and regenerate our governance based on our communal values."

Chief Joe Alphonse