Slumach who died on the gallows in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, in 1891 was an elderly Katzie First Nations man. Baptized moments before his death he was given the first name "Peter", a name never used in his lifetime. His unmarked grave is in St. Peter's Cemetery in Sapperton. He is remembered today because of his alleged knowledge of the location of the Pitt Lake gold deposit that is often referred to as "Slumach's Gold."
Slumach entered written history in September 1890, when he shot a “half-breed” known as Louis Bee or Louie Bee at what is now known as Addington Point on the west shore of Pitt River, opposite Sturgeon Creek. Bee and his wife Kitty may be the persons recorded in the 1881 Canada census as “Lewey, indigenous, 27 years and Kitty, indigenous, 40 years, at Cowichan.” There is no other information about Bee.
Bee was shot from the shore as he was sitting in a canoe with “Seymour”, a fellow fisherman. There were no other witnesses to the murder. The motive of the murder had probably more to do with liquor rather than, as some have suggested, gold. Both Bee and Seymour had before done hard labour for selling liquor to First Nations people.
Slumach eluded capture for several months but, with winter approaching, surrendered to authorities. Efforts to show that Slumach acted in self-defense failed, and so did the defence's efforts to postpone the trial until the spring, speculating that the elderly man would die in captivity of natural causes and would be spared capital punishment. Slumach was sentenced to death and he was hanged in January 1891.
Contemporary newspapers reported the hanging in detail. The Vancouver Daily World commented: “There was much sympathy for Slumach among those who witnessed his execution. It was thought that the Government might, with just clemency, have extended a reprieve to him, for he certainly would not have lived very long in confinement, and the fact that he never ran across law and order in any shape until the latter years of his long life made many hope that he would be allowed to finish his career in the confinement of the penitentiary.” There may have been feelings of sympathy for the old man at the hanging, but there is only one request for clemency on file and in the time preceding his execution the newspapers and their readers seemed indifferent about Slumach's fate.
Pitt Lake gold
Many years after his death, stories surfaced that Slumach had discovered rich gold deposits at Pitt lake, and died without revealing the location. Pitt Lake's Lost Gold Mine and Slumach are the topic of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, transcript of most can be found on the Slumach Web site, as well as books and three television documentaries.
- Slumach is now the most common spelling. An “Indian Census” of 1879 shows his name as Slum.ook. Some contemporary court records show his name as Slumah or Sumah. Newspapers spelled his name in a variety of different ways.
- Baptism and interment records, 1891.
- Slumach's Gold: In Search of a Legend, Rick Antonson, Mary Trainer, Brian Antonson, Heritage House, 2007.
- BC Attorney General Inquisitions and Inquests 50/90 September 9, 1890, Louie Bee Shot by Slumach
- of Harrison as the records show
- Fred Braches,"Murder on the Pitt River," The News, Maple Ridge BC, 27 April 2010.
- Daily Columbian, New Westminster, BC, 26 April 1882 and Daily Colonist, Victoria, BC, 10 June 1887.
- "Starved Out: Slumach, the Notorious Murderer of Louis Bee, Quietly Surrendered and in Now in Jail," Daily Columbian, 25 October 1890.
- Bench Books 1864-1964, Vol 597, page 19 page 21-28, M.W.T. Drake, Supreme Court, New Westminster - November 1890, etc. and BC Attorney General, Inquisitions and Inquest 6/91 January 16, 1891, Slumach, an Indian Hung by the court.
- For instance "Paid the Penalty: Slumach, the Murderer of Louis Bee, Pays the Penalty of his Crime," Daily Columbian, 16 January 1891.
- "Hanged at Royal City," Vancouver Daily World, 16 January 1891
- Slumach, contains transcripts or copies of all sources and references.