U.S. apology sought for 1884 lynching: Cross-border mob killed Indian teen in Canada

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British Columbia's Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo has quietly launched a mission to heal an old cross-border scar between the U.S. and Canada: The 1884 lynching by an American mob of a young Sto:lo boy named Louie Sam.

"This is not the best time in relations between Canada and the United States," said Campagnolo in an interview. "This is a positive thing.

"We can't change the past, but we can do something about it."

The Sto:lo First Nation still recounts stories of a moonlit night in February 1884, when the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and hung 130 paces from the border, allegedly for a murder historians believe he didn't commit.

"We have to remember in an oral society, nothing is forgotten," said Campagnolo, who thinks the only U.S. lynching in Canada now deserves an apology because the U.S. government apologized to its own citizens last June for failing to protect 4,743 Americans who were hung. "I think this is a human rights issue."

Campagnolo chose to act for Louie Sam in September, in a speech given to Washington State's Lieutenant-Governor Brad Owen, who, unlike Canada's crown representatives, is elected by the public.

"Our government spent years seeking justice in the case without effect. Today, the issue is still one contention between the Sto:lo people and our government. The case is the only fully documented lynching ever to take place in Canada."

The bid seems to be working.

Owen is preparing to steer a resolution through the state legislature to issue an apology, one that won't involve any monetary compensation but seeks to offer "healing." Washington's lieutenant-governor also sent a letter this week to the B.C. government asking they, too, follow through with an apology for not doing enough to bring Sam's murderers to justice.

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M J Makse - 12/23/2005

I think this is great.
Time may heal all wounds for the wrong-doers, but it does not necessarily heal all wounds for those wronged.
An apology in this instance would provide the ancestors of Sam a degree of justice, even if it is only symbollic.
Nothing can bring back the dead, nor can we convincingly apologize for past wrongs done by others, however it is important on an emotional level that successors recognize injuries and injustices of the past.
For those still hurting due to this I think it will assist in their healing, and that is reason enough.

John R. Maass - 12/23/2005

Over 100 yrs after the fact, what good is this kind of thing going to do? These type of movements say much more about the attention modern day activists need to get for themselves than so-called "healing."