History prof’s work sparks movie
By Jennifer Webber
A U of S historian whose research uncovered a tragic international tale of racism, murder and cover-up will discuss the story and its political ramifications at the campus screening of a new documentary film on the subject.
The film features Assistant Professor of History Keith Carlson’s research – and Carlson himself – as it chronicles a shocking case of lynching in British Columbia 122 years ago. It was directed by David McIlwraith of Vancouver.
“At the time, the hanging of Louie Sam very nearly sparked an outright race war,” says Carlson, who is currently writing a book on the subject. “It’s an injustice that, to this day, has never properly been addressed or resolved.”
In 1884, an American lynch mob crossed the border from Washington Territory into British Columbia and hanged a 14-year-old Sto:lo boy who was in the custody of Canadian police. The lynch mob claimed to be seeking justice for the murder of a Washington shopkeeper, but Carlson’s investigative research has revealed that the murder was actually committed by one of the lynch mob members, not young Louie Sam.
Until Carlson’s research, the tale of Louie Sam was the stuff of local legend, virtually unknown outside the Sto:lo community. In the U.S., however, it was the lynch mob’s version of events which prevailed and became the historical record.
Following the screening, Carlson will talk about the research that led to the making of the film and about the bizarre, carnival-like atmosphere of the lynching. Carlson will also discuss the latest international political implications of the story’s resurfacing.
With Carlson’s input, Washington’s legislature is now working to develop a public apology to the Sto:lo Nation, to be tabled this session. Along with acting as a consultant to Washington’s Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, Carlson has also been in close communication with British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnola.
“Both governments share in the blame for not clearing Louie Sam’s
name before now and for never pursuing his killers,” says Carlson.
“As far as I’m concerned, an apology is a step in the right
direction, although I certainly hope it won’t end there.”