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(36,988 posts)
Thu Jan 31, 2013, 03:50 PM Jan 2013

Canada has had only one Lynching in its history.

And it was done by Americans.

Lynchings, maybe more than other murders, leave ghosts behind and business unfinished that gnaw at the collective mind. The restless memory of the victim issues insistent demands: Recall me. Remember me. Release me. In the United States, there are many in need of this attention; the list of victims from Texas alone numbers almost 500. And though we tend to think of lynchings as a phenomenon of the Deep South, they actually occurred in all but four of the contiguous forty-eight states.

Here’s a statistic: between 1882, when reliable records started to be kept, and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings recorded in the United States.

In Canada, during this same eighty-six-year period, there was one: Louie Sam’s. Tuskegee University, from whose archives these statistics come, classified 1,297 of the victims as “White” (a figure that includes immigrants and aboriginals, but vastly underestimates the numbers for these groups). No such archives exist in Canada, because there appears to be no need for them


Louie Sam (1870? – February 24, 1884) was a Stó:lō youth from native village near Abbotsford, British Columbia who was lynched by an American mob.

Sam was 14 at the time these events occurred. He had been accused of the murder of James Bell, a shopkeeper in Nooksack (today Whatcom County, Washington). The people of his band, today the Sumas First Nation at Kilgard turned him over to the B.C. government to settle the matter.

Following this, an angry mob crossed the border into Canada on February 24 and captured Sam, who had been in the custody of a B.C. deputy. They then hanged him from a tree close to the U.S. border.

A subsequent investigation by Canadian authorities strongly suggests that Sam was innocent, and that the likely murderers were two white Americans who were leaders of the lynch mob. They were William Osterman, the Nooksack telegraph operator who took over Bell's business, and David Harkness, who at the time of Bell's murder was living with Bell's estranged wife. Neither man was ever prosecuted.


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