Archive for June, 2022

Deadly Neighbours/To Be A Warrior

June 24, 2022

Book Reviews by Janet Nicol

Reimer, Chad. Deadly Neighbours: A Tale of Colonialism, Cattle Feuds, Murder and Vigilantes in the Far West. Qualicum Beach, BC: Caitlin Press, 2022. 216 pp. $26.00 paper.

Deadly Neighbours opens a window into the relationship between immigrant settlers and the Sema:th (Sumas) and Sto:lo people residing in British Columbia’s Sumas Prairie and Nooksack Valley during the 1870s and 1880s.  Several conflicts are examined with a focus on the lynching of Louis Sam, a 15 year old Sema:th boy.  Extensive historical context surrounding this crime is included along with details about the long-term impact.

Enhancing the narrative is the author’s knowledge of the landscape, drawn from his previous study, Before We Lost the Lake:  A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley, with its focus on the draining of Sumas Lake for farm land in the 1920s by settlers in Abbotsford.   The lake had been a vital resource for Indigenous people for centuries.  (Notably in 2021, three years after the publication of Reimer’s prescient account, Abbotsford was subject to devastating flooding and the lake “came back.”)  While Deadly Neighbours covers a shorter time frame, important stories emerge about settlers’ lives and tensions within their own communities and toward their Indigenous neighbours.  In both books, Reimer has chosen key incidents—the draining of a lake and the lynching of a young Indigenous man—to paint a larger picture of BC’s colonial past.

So begins my book review of ‘Deadly Neighbours.’ For the full review go to the BC Studies website.

Pullan, Brandon. To Be a Warrior: The Adventurer Life and Mysterious Death of Billy Davidson. Victoria: Rocky Mountain Books, 2021. 272 pp. $28.oo paper.

To Be A Warrior chronicles the life of wilderness adventurer Billy Davidson (1947-2003), a rock climbing mountaineer and ocean kayaker who spent the last thirty years of his life alone on various small islands in British Columbia’s Inside Passage.   He left behind an ex-partner, Lori Anderson and their son, Westerly, both interviewed for this book, along with other family members and friends. Excepts from Davidson’s journals and letters are quoted throughout the text.  Also included are photographs, illustrated maps and colour-plated reproductions of his stylized oil landscapes.  The author, an outdoor journalist, does not provide footnotes or a bibliography, however he does offer a long-held passion for his subject, describing Davidson as enigmatic, legendary and a mentor.

So begins my book review of ‘To Be a Warrior.’ For the full review, check out the BC Studies website.

Map of Sumas Lake before it was drained in the 1920s. Chad Reimer’s books explore the Sumas Prairie landscape and people.