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Gunanoot Gravesite

Simon Gunanoot Gravesite, Statement of Significance

Description

The Simon Gunanoot Gravesite is a remote site located on Graveyard Point on the east shore of Bowser Lake, near Stewart B.C., within the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.  The historic place includes the weathered wooden remains of a memorial structure and a cache. 

Heritage Values

The heritage significance of the Simon Gunanoot Gravesite lies in its historical, social, cultural, and spiritual values, particularly as a place of memory and legend of the accused and acquitted outlaw Simon Peter Gunanoot.

Upon his death in 1933 Simon Gunanoot was buried on a height of land overlooking Bowser Lake, a place now known as Graveyard Point. The site is valued for its historical and cultural significance as a reminder of the struggles of First Nations, on their own lands, in their relationship with non-aboriginals and their laws. It represents the collision of old and new cultures and the attempt of First Nations to live in both worlds at a time when a First Nations person accused of a crime was almost guaranteed to be presumed guilty. Known as a hardworking businessman and dignified gentleman, Simon Peter Gunanoot, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, was accused of shooting and killing two ‘white men’ near Hazelton in 1906 following an altercation. To avoid capture by authorities Gunanoot disappeared with his family into the wilderness of Northwestern British Columbia. With superior skills as a trapper and outdoorsman he was able to elude authorities for 13 years before surrendering to the police on his own terms. In 1920, in Vancouver, he was acquitted with the help of famed criminal lawyer Stuart Henderson.

The site is valued for its isolated location on a bluff overlooking Bowser Lake.  Deliberately chosen to be south facing and protected, yet difficult to access, the site is a reminder of the dichotomy between the vastness and harsh nature of the country into which Gunanoot disappeared with his family and the familiarity Gunanoot had with the area as he followed a traditional way of life. The location is significant for its aesthetic setting and as a place where Simon spent much of his time.

Simon Gunanoot’s gravesite is valued for its ability to bring to life the particular characters and an era of frontier living and law enforcement in British Columbia’s Northwest. Actively sought for four years after the murders, Simon was pursued by the British Columbia Provincial Police, the RCMP, the American Pinkerton’s Detective Agency and various bounty hunters until 1910. During his exile, he was able to avoid authorities and periodically reappeared in relative safety in various communities with the help of family and friends to purchase supplies, sell furs and even attend the theatre. Simon had many local Gitxsan and white supporters and sympathizers among the prospectors, trappers, telegraph operators and other fellow wilderness inhabitants.

An important Gitxsan chief tracing his lineage through his mother's side, the site is a reminder of the tradition of matrilineal descent found in many First Nations cultures. It also reflects traditional use of particular lands for hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering, and the importance of names within First Nations culture.

Social and educational value is found in the literature, stories and legends that have been created around the story of Simon Gunanoot. While he remained in the wilderness his legend grew to become larger than life, with some publications elevating him to mythical status.

The place has spiritual value as a memorial to Simon Gunanoot and his father, Nah Gun. In 1908, while on the run from authorities, Simon honoured his father's request to be buried on the bluff above Bowser Lake, a Gitxsan tradition of returning family members to places significant to them.

The Gravesite site continues to provide ongoing social and educational value by keeping his name, his legend and his family history alive.

 

Character Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Simon Gunanoot Gravesite include:

  • remote location on Graveyard Point at Bowser Lake
  • views from the point and physical orientation to the lake
  • the high bluff above the lake, rocky outcrops and the protected bay
  • remains of the cache, including, wood posts wrapped with metal, parts of old stove, cache floorboards nailed together, bottles, jars  and metal cans
  • remains of gravesite including weathered wooden parts of fence and gravehouse
  • British Columbia legal survey monument post

Gunanoot Sign

Copy of Gunanoot Interpretive Sign on Highway 37

Special Thanks To:

Laurel Smith-Wilson, ‘Ksan Historical Village

Eve Hope, Hazelton Pioneer Museum and Archives

Harvey Gunanoot

George and Darlene Simpson

 

Selected Sources:

Berton, Pierre. “New Verdict Fresh Testimony in the case of the Crown vs. Gun-an-noot”, Molly Sargent fonds, Hazelton Pioneer Museum and Archives.

Clark, Cecil. “Sergeant Sperry Cline, Frontier Policeman” in Pioneer Days in British Columbia, Downs, Art ed. Surrey B.C.: Heritage House Publishing, 1979.

Cox, Constance. “Simon Gun-a-Noot: The Authentic Story.” Native Voice (special edition), pp. 34-37 (1958).

Kelley, Thomas P. Run, Indian, Run: The Story of Simon Gun-na-noot. Don Mills, Ontario: PaperJacks, 1972.

Golder Associates. Timber Baron Archaeological Overview Assessment, 2007.

Out Yonder Productions. Chasing Shadows: The Simon Gunanoot Story. Smithers: nd.

Province of British Columbia. Resource Management Report for HcTj-1 (Graveyard Point), 2010.

Rescan Environmental Services Ltd. Northwest Transmission Line Project:

Skii km Lax Ha Traditional Use and Knowledge Report. Vancouver: British Columbia Transmission Corporation, 2009.

Simon Gunanoot’s Will, courtesy Hazelton Pioneer Museum and Archives.

Williams, David Ricardo. Trapline Outlaw. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1982.

British Columbia Provincial Department of Fisheries. Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries of British Columbia. Spawning-Beds of the Naas.  by C.P. Hickman 1913

Photos: 
Simon Peter Gunanoot c. 1930 BC Archives photo a-04796
Simon Gunanoot (middle), his lawyer, Stuart Henderson (left), and George Beirnes (right) BC Archives photo i-61617
Gunanoot Gravesite at Bowser Lake c. 1940s BC Archives photo b-00670
Gunanoot Gravesite at Bowser Lake (no date) BC Archives photo b-00489
Graveyard Point on Bowser Lake - August 2010
Aerial view of Graveyard Point on Bowser Lake - August 2010
Site of Gunanoot Grave on Graveyard Point, Bowser Lake - August 2010
Remains of Gunanoot Gravesite - August 2010
Gunanoot Gravesiste on Graveyard Point - 1995
Gunanoot Gravesite - 1974 (D. Newman photo)
Remains of old post from a cache near Graveyard Point - August 2010
Items from the old cache near Graveyard Poiint - August 2010
Gov't cache near Graveyard Point - 1974 (D. Newman photo)
Hands of History sign telling Gunanoot story near Hazelton