The man who stayed invisible for thirteen years
His name was Gun-an-noot. They said he killed two man. In the B.C. wilds he played a deadly game of hide-and-seek with posses and police. Then he surrendered to a white man’s law that may have done him a terrible wrong
The middle-aged prisoner on trial for his life in the courthouse in Vancouver stood over six feet in his moosehide moccasins. Under his frayed Mackinaw shirt the chest was deep, the shoulders broad and sloping. In spite of three months behind prison bars, his skin was still swarthy, but pallor showed in the hollows under his cheek bones. He wore a black mustache, a rarity among his people.
A MACLEAN’S FLASHBACK
His name was Gun-an-noot. In the B.C. wilds he playe Then he surrendered to a v
By Howard O’Hagan
They said d a deadly vhite man’s
lie killed two men.
game of hide-and-seek with posses and law that may have done him a terrible
T he middle-aged prisoner on trial for his life in the courthouse in Vancouver stood over six feet in his moosehide moccasins. Under his frayed Mackinaw shirt the chest was deep, the shoulders broad and sloping. In spite of three months behind prison bars, his skin was still swarthy, but pallor showed in the hollows under his cheek bones. He wore a black mustache, a rarity among his people. More remarkable were his eyes, sombre and hooded like an owl’s — “alert eyes,” the Vancouver Daily Province noted, set in a face “grim and expressionless.”
His name was Simon Gun-an-noot, a Kispiox Indian from the upper Skeena River country, five hundred miles north of Vancouver. His presence in the dock was the sequel to one of Canada's longest and most baffling manhunts. It began on June 19, 1906, at the village of Kispiox near the juncture of the Kispiox River with the Skeena, which empties into the Pacific by the port of Prince Rupert, a hundred miles to the west. It ended thirteen years later, on June 24, 1919, when Gun-an-noot walked out of the forest and gave himself up.
During Gun-an-noot’s thirteen years of hiding in the wilderness, the Grand Trunk Pacific had been pushed through to Prince Rupert, linking Hazelton—a few miles below Kispiox village—to the outside. On his emergence from exile he saw his first train. World War I had been fought and the Kaiser banished to a wood lot in Holland.
Over these years the B. C. government had spent more than a hundred thousand dollars to flush Gun-an-noot from his hiding place. Its agents, including Pinkerton detectives brought from New York, had covered thousands of miles through junglelike mountain country. One result of this exhaustive effort was to make the name of Gun-an-noot a byword for human endurance and cunning, and to give to the man who bore it a mountain as a monument—Mount Guna-noot.
Gun-an-noot’s ordeal—that of being an invisible man before the law for thirteen years—had its beginning on a trail above the Skeena. There, soon after dawn on June 19, 1906, two men were lashing their horses into a gallop. They were a mile
apart at the time, riding in opposite directions.
One man, with a broken finger, rode south toward Hazelton where he hoped to have it dressed. The other, his partner, rode north to Haguilite, the Indian reserve on the Kispiox, to gather horses for a pack-train journey north.
The men were Alec McIntosh and Max Leclaire, both in their late twenties. Scottish, FrenchCanadian and Cree Indian blood flowed in their veins; their forebears had come west with early fur traders. They hired out as guides and packers to hunters and prospectors.
As well as being business partners, they were closely coupled by the bond of the bottle and had spent the hours before their diverging rides at Two-Mile House, a saloon and eating place mid-, way between Hazelton and Haguilite. A fifteenyear-old Indian boy, Peter Barney, tending cows, saw them leave together. Then they parted.
The two men shared still another and more drastic bond: crouched in a willow bush, or prone behind a log, rifle in hand, a silent marksman waited for each of them.
Two reports,»a mile apart, echoed against the mountains. In each case the victim was leaning forward over the saddle horn. In each case the marksman waited until the rider passed. Then, when the mounted man was outlined against the sky, he shot him from below, in the back, the bullet passing upward through the body.
John Boyd, squat, dark Babine Indian, coming into Hazelton for supplies, found the first body, that of Alec McIntosh. It lay face up, arms and legs extended, face swollen and shirt stained with blood. A bullet had entered McIntosh’s back about two inches to the right of the spine and emerged an inch below the collarbone.
Leclaire’s body was discovered farther up the trail barely an hour later. He had been shot low in the back, two inches to the left of the spine. That bullet had also come out below the collarbone.
By each corpse, lines trailing and coat caked with sweat, a saddled horse was grazing.
Since the victims were a mile apart when they were toppled from their continued on page 34
The man who stayed invisible
Continued from page 21
"Gun-an-noot was said to shoot straighter and fight better than any man on the upper Skeena”
horses at about the same time, it seemed clear one killer could not have been responsible for both murders. And yet, it was also unlikely that two killers would have inflicted wounds so similar. Scant attention was to be paid to these questions during the investigation, nor were the bullets or their cartridge cases recovered.
Boyd, the Babine Indian, was troubled with no such speculation when he hurried into Hazelton with his news: he had seen only one dead man, Alec McIntosh.
Hazelton in those days consisted of log cabins housing two hundred people, the barracks of the B. C. provincial police, a Hudson's Bay Company trading post, a church, the hospital and the house of the doctor, H. C. Wrinch.
Boyd went at once to the police barracks. There, over morning coffee. Constable James E. Kirby listened to his tale. Kirby strapped on his revolver, saddled his horse and rode up the trail with Boyd and identified the body. He had known McIntosh well; on and off for a dozen years McIntosh had been in jail, charged with bootlegging, creating disturbances or molesting the native women. Kirby brought the body in. draped over the saddle of the dead man’s pinto.
Soon a report reached town of the discovery of Leclaire’s body. Accompanied by Wrinch, Kirby rode out again. Like McIntosh, Leclaire also had a police record.
By the time of the inquest, called for that afternoon by Edward H. Hicks Beach, the town coroner, Wrinch, in his post-mortems, had fixed the manner, cause and approximate hour of the twin murders. He said the two men had probably died within a few minutes of each other.
About twenty witnesses appeared: Kispiox Indians, half-breed and white trappers and hunters and hangers-on — men who had been with or seen McIntosh and Leclaire during the previous twenty-four hours. The picture their testimony produced was that of an all-night drunk at Two-Mile House that had left the premises disordered and blood-spattered. Two full-blood Kispiox Indians had shared the limelight with McIntosh and Leclaire — Simon Gun-an-noot and his brother-in-law. Peter Hi-ma-dan. Neither was present at the inquest.
Gun-an-noot, thirty-two years old, educated by Catholic priests, was a distinguished character in the valley. His stature and thin black mustache marked him
in any gathering. He weighed two hundred pounds but moved with a cougar’s grace. He had the reputation of being able to walk faster, shoot straighter and fight better than any other man in the upper Skeena, but he was a peaceful man, even when drinking.
Above all. Gun-an-noot prided himself on his family. His young wife was pretty, with dark dancing eyes. They had two children, a girl and a boy. The boy was still a baby, carried on his mother's back, swathed in moss in a board cradle. They lived at Kispiox village on the Haguilite reserve, half-an-hour’s ride from TwoMile House. There they owned a small store. When the police subsequently took it over, its contents were assessed at two hundred dollars. During Gun-an-noot’s absence on his trapline in the winter, or prospecting in the summer, his wife managed the store. This sharing of business responsibility by an Indian with his wife was as unusual as his work as a storekeeper. The Gun-an-noots were saving money because they were ambitious for their family and planned to hire a tutor so that their children would speak English and learn to live in the white man's way.
A few days before the murders along the Skeena River trail, Gun-an-noot had sold his winter catch of fur. An astute trader, he had bargained until he got a fair price at the trading post in Hazelton. He had appeared at Two-Mile House to celebrate the deal by having a few drinks. It was against the law to serve liquor to Indians, but the proprietor, a Mr. Cameron, believed that a man with money, whatever his color, should be allowed to spend it.
Most of the witnesses at the inquest were suffering from hangovers, hut. though the evidence they gave was confused on some points, they agreed that soon after midnight Gun-an-noot had had words with McIntosh. With money in his pocket from his fur sale, Gun-annoot had been buying most of the drinks. Suddenly McIntosh, who was notoriously tightfisted, called for “drinks on the house.”
Gun-an-noot chided him and. laughing, said to those at the bar. “Mac is opening up his heart.” McIntosh replied that he could buy more than drinks with his money. Someone asked him, “What, for instance?”
“Women . . . they all have their price.” And looking at Gun-an-noot: “Yes, even your Christian squaws.”
McIntosh must have known that this was dangerous ground. Gun-an-noot was a Roman Catholic and his wife a staunch worker for the church. Though stocky, well-built, hard from a rigorous life in the mountains, McIntosh nevertheless was choosing an opponent who outweighed him by fifty pounds, the champion fighter and outdoorsman of the Skeena valley.
Now he said, emphasizing his words. “Sure—any one of them on the reserve can be bought. I know because I’ve done it—-and Mrs. Gun-an-noot, too."
There was a roar as from a wounded grizzly. Gun-an-noot picked up McIntosh and hurled him into a corner of the bar. Leclaire leaped on Gun-an-noot's back and was pulled off by Peter Hi-ma-dan. Gun-an-noot’s brother-in-law. The fight became general and.was broken up only when Charles Fulmore, Richard Hamilton, a mail driver from the Cariboo, and Cameron, the barkeeper, forced Gun-annoot and Hi-ma-dan to the door. Furniture had been smashed, McIntosh’s finger ripped and broken and Gun-an-noot’s nose bloodied.
At the door Gun-an-noot swung around and shouted to McIntosh, “Some day I’ll fix you, good!"
It was not a drunken threat: everyone at the inquest testified that the two Kispiox Indians were sober—the only sober men in the saloon, with the exception of the three who had pushed them to the door. The fact that the Indians were sober was later regarded as highly incriminating. Drunken men. it was decided at the inquest, could not have fired the shots that killed McIntosh and Leclaire.
Finally settling the guilt of Gun-annoot and Hi-ma-dan in the minds of the jurymen was their failure to appear at the inquest. All others for whom word had gone out appeared. In the clouded circumstances, the jury brought down its fateful verdict: “We, having heard the evidence relating to the above case, have come to the conclusion that Alee McIntosh was killed by a gunshot wound between Two-Mile Creek and the hospital, and are agreed that it was a ease of wilful murder by a person of the name of Simon Gun-an-noot (Indian) of Kispiox village."
In the second verdict, concerning the death of Max Leclaire, Peter Hi-ma-dan was named as an accomplice. A reward of five hundred dollars was posted for the arrest of each man.
Immediately after the inquest Cameron, the barkeeper, vanished and was never seen again on the upper Skeena. Renegades though they were. McIntosh and Leclaire had relatives and friends who were so convinced of the Indians guilt that they threatened a lynching when they found them. Under the pressure, constable Kirby had to act.
His first move was to jail Nah-gun. Gun-an-noot’s aged father. Knowing the close bonds between the two, he thought that this would bring Gun-an-noot in to face his accusers. Kirby put a boastful deputy. "Windy” Johnson, in charge of the jail.
Wily old Nah-gun, allowed to exercise in a log stockade adjoining the jail, soon discovered that the outhouse, though entered from the inside, was built outside the walls. He also discovered that two of its wall boards were loose. On the third evening he escaped into the mountains. His jailer from then on was known as "Silent” Johnson.
Meanwhile Gun-an-noot and Hi-madan had taken to the hills. In later years Gun-an-noot said that he had wanted to
attend the inquest but his father had advised him not to come in because local feeling ran too high. It would be wiser for Gun-an-noot to disappear until tempers cooled.
Before he left, Gun-an-noot shot the five horses in his corral to deprive pursuers of their use. He knew that he and Hi-ma-dan could move more quickly on foot—and, besides, hoofmarks would betray where they had gone.
When Kirby and his deputies went to Gun-an-noot’s cabin and tried to persuade his wife to tell them where the fugitive might have gone, she denied any knowledge of his plans. Thus the long search began, with Gun-an-noot always far enough ahead of his pursuers that they never saw him. Crossing the Kispiox on that first day, the men heard howling in the distance. In a forest clearing they came upon fourteen dogs tied to trees. They were pack animals Gun-an-noot used on his winter trapline. He had tied them up, guessing where Kirby would ford the river and knowing that their howling would distract his pursuers from his trail. Kirby returned with the dogs to Kispiox village.
This set the pattern of a fantastic pursuit of a will-o’-the-wisp that was to continue for the next thirteen years. During the first night Gun-an-noot slipped back to his house to learn from his wife that he was charged with murder. He set out, carrying two pairs of snowshoes, prepared for a long absence. Before they would meet again, his young wife would be middle-aged, his children would be adolescent and he himself would be a man old beyond his time.
Until that far date—June 24, 1919— Gun-an-noot became a phantom. He was forever across another river, behind another ridge or beyond a farther mountain. He and Hi-ma-dan—who in 1910 was to die of pneumonia along a winter trail—traveled light, with blankets, a tea billy and rifles. They lived off a country where rabbits, grouse, deer and moose usually were plentiful. The police, on the other hand, were burdened with equipment—tents and grub boxes packed on horses. In the winter their time away from the base was limited by what they could carry on their backs. In addition, Gun-an-noot was in home territory. Here, over the passes, along the creeks, he had trapped and hunted since a boy.
The upper Skeena, north from Hazelton, may be likened to a great fir tree fallen into the mountains. Innumerable branches, or side streams, join with the parent trunk. The tip, or headwaters, lies up against the source of the west-flowing Stikine and close to Telegraph Creek. Beyond are Dease Lake and the Atlin country. To the northeast is the Finlay which, joining with the Parsnip, breaks eastward through the Rocky Mountains as the Peace. A lower branch of the Skeena bends southeast to drain fortymile-long Babine Lake. South and east of Babine Lake are the headwaters of the Nechako, a far western reach of the mighty Fraser. This was the territory— ten thousand square miles of muskeg, forest, canyon, plateau and mountain slope—that was Gun-an-noot’s hideout.
Reports came in that he had been seen in the Yukon, in the Atlin country and at the head of the Finlay. None of them proved true when, after weeks and sometimes months of toil, they were followed up.
Within a year the case had attracted more than local attention, though the outside world had other significant affairs before it — the “horseless carriage,” for example. In the summer of 1906 Vancouver papers played up the names of J. S. Rear and W. H. Kimpton who had
bought a “Model-K,” thirty horsepower, four-cylinder car in Seattle and driven the one hundred and fifty miles north through “swamps and wallows” to Vancouver in fourteen hours.
The B. C. government, however, could not neglect its task on the upper Skeena. A murder charge could not be lightly dropped, nor possible criminals permitted to run at large to encourage others. Rumors grew that the Skeena was a lawless region. Prospectors and settlers were turning away from it in 1907.
In that summer the government called in two men from Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency of New York at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars. In those years the jurisdiction of the North West Mounted Police, which now, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, patrols the province, did not extend to British Columbia.
The Pinkerton men went north to Hazelton, but when they returned in the fall the two fugitives were still free.
In November provincial constable Otway Wilkie, from Vancouver, led a party of four into the wilderness. Winter was selected as a propitious season for the
search, for the valleys would be more open when the trees and bushes had shed their leaves and a man would leave | snowshoe tracks when he traveled. By pack horse and raft Wilkie moved two tons of supplies from Hazelton one hundred miles north to Bear Lake, and put up a winter camp. From it he scouted the Sustut, Otseka and Ingenika, the Kettle, the Omineca and the farthest fringes of the upper Skeena, all within the limits of what was to become known as “Gun-annoot’s country.” In his travels he passed the peak shown today on the map as Mount Guna-noot. In dead winter Wilkie’s party covered hundreds of miles, breaking their snowshoes in down-timber, losing their dogs and returning to camp half-starved and nearly frozen. They saw no sign of Gunan-noot—but Gun-an-noot, as he revealed later, saw them. On a cold December day he and Hi-ma-dan were returning in late afternoon down a box canyon on the headwaters of the Skeena where they had set rabbit snares. Suddenly Hi-ma-dan, who was leading, put up his hand and pointed. Wilkie and another man were approaching the entrance to the canyon from the right. In another fifty yards Wilkie would cross the incoming snowshoe trail of Gun-an-noot and Peter. The two Indians, in a blind canyon whose walls they could not scale, would be trapped. Hi-ma-dan dropped behind a rock,
raised his rifle and centred Wilkie in his sights. Quickly Gun-an-noot crouched beside him and. putting his thumb under the hammer, whispered to his partner to wait.
It was near twilight. Possibly Wilkie thought it was time to return to camp. Whatever the reason, after a few more steps he and his companion paused and talked. With a final glance up the canyon —and within a dozen paces of the Indians’ snowshoe track—they turned back on their trail.
From that day on Gun-an-noot seldom lost track of the Wilkie party. Shadowed, he became the shadower. The white men stayed low in the valleys. The Indians traveled high.
The winter of 1907-08 was severe, with heavy snow. In mid-February Gun-annoot and Hi-ma-dan were in a cave without fire on the slope of Mount Gunanoot, watching Wilkie’s main camp beside the river half a mile below them. The hunting had been poor. Moose, deer, even grouse and rabbits, seemed to have fled the country. The outlaw's w'ere starving and half-frozen, and on this morning were considering surrender.
As a rule, when Wilkie went out on patrol at least one man remained to guard the camp. On this morning the entire group of five set out under heavy packs. Wilkie had decided to abandon the manhunt, leaving behind a cache of bacon, flour, tea, beans, rice and sugar. Gun-an-noot and Hi-ma-dan, suspecting a trap, waited until the next morning before going down to investigate their unexpected windfall. Ironically, these supplies, left behind by those sent out to arrest them, carried the Indians through the critical days of their indecision and well into the spring. Gun-an-noot said later that had Wilkie not come out after him, he and Hi-ma-dan would have had to give themselves up in February 1908. It was a turning point. From that time on his fortunes improved.
After 1910, when Peter Hi-ma-dan had died, Gun-an-noot was in touch with George Biernes, a government packer on the Telegraph Creek trail to the Yukon. This trail had been part of an ambitious project to stretch a telegraph line between New York and London by way of Alaska, the Bering Strait and Siberia. The undertaking was abandoned on the laying of the Atlantic cable in 1866, but the trail that had been cut through northern B. C. has been kept open until the present day.
Biernes and Gun-an-noot had often hunted together and a meeting between them on familiar territory came naturally. Gun-an-noot knew that the police had closed his store and confiscated its stock —though they had still to prove that he was a criminal. Fearing that his wife and children might be in want, he showed Biernes a cache where he would leave the lur he trapped. Biernes would sell the fur and turn over the money to Mrs. Gunan-noot. Throughout his long exile Gunan-noot cared for his family in this way, and he commissioned Biernes to hire a missionary named Thorkerson to tutor his children.
In the late spring of 1913 R. 1. Hawkins, of the Yukon telegraph line, met Gun-an-noot at the head of the Stikine. Gun-an-noot was hungry for companionship and he showed that he was familiar with Hawkins’ movements since he had come into the country and was in touch with what was happening within an area of a hundred miles. He exchanged a haunch of caribou meat for beans and bacon.
Hawkins urged him to surrender, telling him that the government would provide counsel. Gun-an-noot replied that when he had two thousand dollars he
would come in and pay his own way.
Although there was now a thousanddollar reward offered for his capture, none of the people from outside who met Gun-an-noot during this period, nor any of the trappers and prospectors who knew his whereabouts, attempted to turn him in. Sentiment, against £iim in the beginning, was now strongly in his favor. Gun-an-noot always evading those sent to capture him. and at the same time providing for his family, had become a living, almost a cherished, legend.
All this while, of course, the police had
been busy. Other “bean-pot brigades” on a less ambitious scale than Wilkie's had taken to the trail in the summers, his experience having discouraged further winter forays. These parties came back with strange tales. They would wake in the mornings and find that a pound of tea. a bag of sugar or a tin of syrup had been taken, but replacing these packaged foods they would often find a brace of grouse or a cut of venison. In that nettled and forested country where a man at times could not see beyond an arm's length, they sw'ore that sometimes they
heard a breathing beside them in the thicket. Gun-an-noot chose carefully those before whom he appeared. To others he was still “the invisible man.”
But now a catastrophe was brewing that would make him forgotten as well as invisible. Germany w'as preparing for war. Until after the armistice the search for Gun-an-noot was unofficially suspended. Then in the late spring of 1919. John Kelly, now chief constable at Hazelton, made ready for another expedition into the wilderness.
But another and more effective force
was at work. Biernes—who died at seventy in 1953 on his ranch in the Kispiox valley—had not lost touch with the wanted man, and he had now interested a Vancouver lawyer, Stuart Henderson, in the case. Henderson, who had won a reputation in criminal law as the champion of the underdog, went north to meet Gun-an-noot.
Biernes, after many failures, had persuaded Gun-an-noot to come to an abandoned cabin five miles outside of Kispiox village at noon on June 24. He met Henderson in Hazelton and rode out with
him to the meeting place, leading a horse for Gun-an-noot. For four hours they waited in the cabin. Henderson was impatient and about to leave when, silently, Gun-an-noot appeared in the doorway. He had walked forty miles that day to his appointment.
The three men talked until dusk. Gunan-noot was afraid of the “white man's justice.” Henderson assured him that he would have a fair trial. Biernes told him that his wife was not well and that she needed him. Reluctantly, Gun-an-noot agreed to give himself up—but only when
he had made sure that Biernes could advance Henderson two thousand dollars saved from the sale of fur trapped during his years as a fugitive.
They had ridden three miles toward Hazelton when Gun-an-noot pulled up. He stared long and silently at the mountains. Then he dropped his head, wheeled his horse and, at a walk, proceeded back along the trail. He could not face the prospect of giving up his hazardous freedom for months behind prison bars.
Biernes, who knew his man, called after him, tauntingly, “You are afraid. I
did not think Simon Gun-an-noot would be afraid.” Henderson, following the cue, said loudly to Biernes, “1 have wasted too much time already on this case. I would not have come at all if I had known that Gun-an-noot would be afraid.” They said no more and continued on toward Hazelton. Within half a mile they were rejoined by Gun-an-noot who followed them without a word into Hazelton, where he insisted on going alone to the police barracks. Chief Constable Kelly, who had been put on the alert by Biernes, was waiting at his desk. Gun-an-noot walked in. He said, “1 am Simon Gun-an-noot. I come to give myself in.” It was Kelly’s first glimpse of the notorious fugitive. Now, instinctively, his eyes turned from the tall, travel-worn figure before him, to three rifles in a rack on the wall. Gun-an-noot, following his glance, said, “You don’t want to be ’fraid of me. You never saw me before, but I know you—and 1 could have shot you many times out on the trail.” Behind bars, under restraint for the first time in his life, Gun-an-noot sat down on the bench; cold sweat so drenched his clothes that they had to be changed. Remanded to a higher court, he was taken south to Vancouver and lodged in Oakalla Prison until Oct. 7, when he faced the jury at the assize court. The crown prosecutor in the trial was Alex Henderson, KC; Stuart Henderson handled the defense; and Mr. Justice Gregory presided. Suicide was out Gun-an-noot was charged with a single crime — the murder of Alec McIntosh. That McIntosh had been murdered was not contested by the defense. Suicide was ruled out and no justification for the killing was alleged to support the lesser charge of manslaughter. The question was: did Simon Gun-an-noot kill him? Most of the trial witnesses had attended the Hazelton inquest thirteen years earlier. The years had mellowed them and they were now markedly favorable to Gun-an-noot. An exception was James Kirby, the constable at Hazelton in 1906. Under cross-examination by Stuart Henderson, Kirby said that he had known the murdered man since 1893 and had jailed him many times. He admitted that Gun-an-noot’s reputation, on the other hand, had been good—“for an Indian, very good.” Kirby testified that he had protested against the issuance of a license for TwoMile House, where Gun-an-noot and McIntosh had clashed before the murder. “I predicted it would develop into a tough place,” said Kirby, “and it did.” When he found McIntosh’s body, he had not been able to find the spot from which the shot had been fired “because the ground was spongy and the tracks had disappeared.” Defense counsel suggested that, on the contrary, the soft ground would have yielded up the tracks had he searched diligently. Nor had the constable identified the bullet fragment lodged in McIntosh’s body. He had arrested Nah-gun. Gun-annoot’s father, because he was on his way to Kispiox village where he lived. “If that was a suspicious action on the part of Nah-gun. a lot of us might be arrested.” commented Stuart Henderson. Cameron, the barkeeper, had been summoned the day after the inquest, charged with selling liquor to Indians. He did not appear. Kirby, however, would not grant that Cameron had “disappear-
ed” although he had not seen him since.
Cameron might have had to pay a small fine for serving liquor to an Indian, Staart Henderson pointed out, but, he asked Kirby, “Do you expect the court to believe that that alone was sufficient reason to account for his flight and for him to give up the Two-Mile House which he had so recently opened and in which he had invested money?” Kirby was silent.
Referring to Kirby’s denial that Cameron had “disappeared,” defense counsel asked, “Then why did you say that Simon Gun-an-noot had disappeared?”
"Because I searched for him."
"Then there was just a hunt for one man, not an investigation of the state of affairs?”
"I was hunting for just one man.
"Your mind was made up that Simon was guilty?”
“He was the only one I looked for, ’ replied Kirby.
Dr. Wrinch, who had performed the post-mortem, testified that McIntosh had been dead “two or three hours” when he s¿w the body soon after nine in the morning. The bullet that killed him had been fired “from a distance of from ten to twenty feet,” and the dead man, peitups knowing that he was in danger, “must have been leaning far forward in the saddle as he galloped for his life.” The killer had probably been kneeling or hing down.
Peter Barney, the Indian boy who had seen McIntosh and l.eclaire ride ofi in different directions while he was herding cow's the morning of the murders, declared under cross-examination that he had also seen Gun-an-noot.
Mr. Justice Gregory interrupted to ask the boy if Gun-an-noot. w ho left I woMile House before McIntosh, had taken the same direction as the murdered man. Peter said, “They rode off in opposite directions.”
The trial lasted three days. Defense counsel Henderson called no witnesses, resting his defense upon cross-examination of those called by the crown. Nor did he ask Gun-an-noot to testify on his own behalf, thereby denying to the crown the right to cross-examine the prisoner.
Summing up for the defense on Oct. 9, the last day of the trial, Stuart Henderson pointed out to the jury that the crown had not succeeded in placing Gun-an-noot at the scene of the crime. "The crown's own witness, Peter Barney,” he declared, “has testified that, on leaving the inn, Gun-an-noot rode in one direction and McIntosh in another.” Further, said Henderson, McIntosh had trifled with native women. He would have had many enemies who might well have taken advantage of his scuffle with Gunan-noot to put the blame for the crime on the accused. Cameron, the barkeeper, had fled the day after the inquest. Probably others had vanished whose trails the police had likewise failed to follow.
Then Henderson declared: “The prisoner has already been punished for a crime he did not commit by thiiteen years of exile in a harsh northern wilderness. Throughout that time he has provided for his family. He endured his exile because he was afraid he would not receive justice in a white mans courtroom. It remains with you, the jury, to prove to him that his fears were groundless.” After deliberating fifteen minutes the jury acquitted Gun-an-noot. The chaige relating to the murder of Leclaire was withdrawn. Gun-an-noot was free to return to his northland, to the smell of campfire smoke and the roar of the rivers. But he was now a broken man.
During thirteen years in hiding he had seen his hope of raising his family in the white man’s way denied by the w'hite man’s law. Even deeper than the mark of the thirteen years w'as the one left by the months in prison and the harassment of legal procedure. Leaving the dock, he collapsed and spent a month in the hospital.
In late November he w'ent back to the upper Skeena. There his father, old Nahgun, was dying. He asked to be buried on the shore of Bowser Lake, sixty miles north into the mountains from Kispiox
village. There he had been a boy and there he had taught Gun-an-noot to hunt. In the spring Gun-an-noot carried Nahgun’s body in on his back, dug a grave and left him at peace under the budding poplars.
That fall Gun-an-noot and Biernes, as further payment of a debt, took Stuart Henderson on a hunting trip. The burden of the trip fell on Biernes. Gun-an-noot. the man who had never before yielded first place on the trail, complained of being tired.
When the hunt was over, and the man
with whose name he was now linked in legal history had gone south with his moosehead and his bearhide, Gun-annoot confided to Biernes that he would hunt no more. To his wife and children he said that he must tend more carefully his father's grave.
A few years later he walked into Bowser Lake, caught pneumonia and died. He lies by the lake today, at his father's side. His secret, if he had one. wasTniried with him. Simon Gun-an-noot, Indian, of Kispiox village, at last was beyond the reach of the white man's law'. ^