Simon Gunanoot Gravesite
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Simon Gunanoot Gravesite is a remote site located on Graveyard Point on the east shore of Bowser Lake, approximately 65 km northeast of Stewart, British Columbia. The site is within the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine. The historic place includes the weathered wooden remains of a memorial structure and a cache.
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 about 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 non-aboriginal 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 evoke the particular characters and a former 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. With the help of family and friends, he would periodically reappear in relative safety in various communities 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.
Simon Gunanoot was an important Gitxsan chief tracing his lineage through his mother's side, and 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, Guanoot's 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 Simon Gunanoot's name, his legend and his family history alive.
Source: Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, Planning Department
Key character-defining elements of Simon Gunanoot's Gravesite include:
-its 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 an 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
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
Function - Category and Type
- Undetermined (archaeological site)
- Buried Site
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
- Food Supply
- Food Storage Facility
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection