Stolen Ahousaht girl to be memorialized 150 years later

Stolen Ahousaht girl to be memorialized 150 years later

WATCH: A historic wrong is being righted between two Vancouver Island communities that share a tragic link dating back to 1864. That’s when a young girl was taken from Ahousaht never to be returned again.

In many nautical miles of rugged waters beyond Tofino, where the waves come alive with natural wonders that include massive grey whales, sits the isolated First Nations community of Ahousaht.

“I love it. We all come together. It’s beautiful.” said Ahousaht resident Margaret Hunt.

It’s a tight-knit community where for two months now volunteers have been pitching in daily to feed the other volunteers out searching for missing man Travis Thomas.

“It shows the strength we have as a people,” said Ahousaht resident Rebecca Atleo.

“For me just out of love. I love my community,” said Ahousaht resident Marlene John.

Yet in this village so dedicated to its connection to one another, a mystery involving a young girl that dates back to 1864 is now bringing up old wounds and questions about what happened to her when she was taken away from the place she belonged.

“I actually just learned of it, when this story came out,” said Ahousaht’s Deputy Chief Melissa Swan.

The little girl became known as Maggie Sutlej.

When she was just a toddler, her Ahousaht village was bombed in an attack by the HMS Sutlej and HMS Devastation on a night in September 1864. The tiny girl was taken away from her community.

“That to me is huge,” said Swan.

It’s a story that Ahousaht’s oral historian David Jacobson first heard from his grandfather when he was a small boy and says is part of the oral history he is sharing for generations to come.

“It’s something that we take a great deal of pride in and it’s something that we’ve hung on to for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said David Jacobson.

A memorial with the girl’s name stands in Victoria, where records at The Royal BC Museum say Maggie died at sea, two years after she was taken captive.

So now the Khalsa Aid Society is trying to right the historic wrong, and bring peace to the name Sutlej, which is one of the Sikh community’s important rivers.

“That this name was used for something horrific here on the Island. It’s quite saddening,” said Khalsa Aid Canada Director Jatinder Singh.

So Khalsa Aid is reaching out in the spirit of reconciliation and holding a night with Ahousaht in Maggie’s honour.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!