Deadly Neighbours

A Story of Colonialism, Cattle Theft, Murder and Vigilante Violence

By Chad Reimer

Categories: BC History, BIPOC
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860732, 216 pages, February 2022

Excerpt

Deadly Neighbours is an important corrective for the colonial nostalgia that still stubbornly depicts BC pioneer settlers as mere pawns of powerful elite…. [Reimer’s] writing so masterfully reveals that many of those who have been celebrated in Canadian society as pioneer heroes were the same men who engaged in morally indefensible actions against Indigenous people. The history depicted in these pages contributes meaningfully to the important work of truth-telling for a country that is taking halting steps towards the vitally important goal of building reconciliation.”

—Keith Carlson, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and Community-Engaged History, from the foreword to Deadly Neighbours

Description

On a cold night in February, 1884, just metres north of the border on Sumas Prairie, BC, an Indigenous boy named Louie Sam was lynched by a mob of mounted vigilantes. The vigilantes had ridden up from Nooksack Valley in Washington Territory, hell-bent on avenging the murder of one of their neighbours, which they had pinned on Sam. The American origin of the mob, and the fact that Sam's murder was one of only two recorded lynchings in Canadian history, have led historians and writers to represent it as an isolated and foreign incident--disconnected from people and events north of the border and an aberration from the norm of Canadian history.

When placed within the historical context of that time and place, the vigilante murder of Sam no longer appears to be an isolated and foreign incident. Rather, it emerges as the result of a series of events and causes on both sides of the border, with the active participation of locals in both BC and Washington Territory. Deadly Neighbours takes a closer look at the lynching, and in so doing reveals a more complex and disturbing chronicle of the deadly grip the leading White settlers in Nooksack and Sumas held over the area--and most notably, over their Indigenous neighbours.

Reviews

“Through an almost forensic study of court records, testimony and newspaper accounts, Reimer takes us back to the scene of the crime and the miscarriage of justice. Along the way, we get snippets of the public response; white settlers openly nativist and hateful, First Nations angry but cautious. … What Reimer stresses, using the two cases, is that the white community has their law on their side. It’s not a story that Hollywood westerns tend to tell in their romanticized versions of the Old West. We have Reimer to thank for setting the record straight by exposing the miscarriage of justice on both sides of the border.”

—Ron Verzuh, The British Columbia Review

Deadly Neighbours is an important addition to the literature on settler- Indigenous relations, written in accessible prose for a wide audience. The author mines a fascinating, often overlooked, region of British Columbia, employing an inclusive, critical, and truth-seeking investigation into our collective past.”

—Janet Nicol, BC Studies

“BC historian Chad Reimer is doing his best to replace the soothing banalities of earlier colonialist histories of Canada with his deeply researched and eloquently argued studies. … In Deadly Neighbours, Reimer is back on the beat, telling a complex story of cattle theft, murder and racist violence on the Sumas Prairie. Anyone who cares about BC history or about the still unfinished work of truth and reconciliation will find this a useful, if heartbreaking, read. Highly recommended.”

—Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun