Pinkerton's and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot
Double Murder, Secret Agents and an Elusive Outlaw
An intriguing and riveting true crime tale of alleged murderer Simon Gunanoot, evading and outwitting the infamous Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency.
Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot throws new light on the extensive manhunt for an accused murderer in northern British Columbia in the early 1900s. After a double murder in 1906, Gitxsan trapper and storekeeper Simon Gunanoot fled into the wilderness with his family. Despite lack of proof, the police pursued Gunanoot for nearly three years, sending search parties and police operatives into the wilds of northern BC. The hunt was covered by numerous newspapers at the time, describing a melodramatic cat-and-mouse chase—a not-entirely-accurate account. Frustrated by Gunanoot’s ability to evade capture, the Attorney General of BC asked Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in Seattle to assist in the pursuit.
In May 1909, two Pinkerton’s operatives disguised as prospectors were sent to Hazelton, BC, to find and apprehend Gunanoot. From 1909–1910, they delivered regular reports to Pinkerton’s office in Seattle detailing their progress. Many of these confidential reports, written around campfires on the treks in the wilderness, provided a vivid picture of life in the frontier town, relations of the settlers and prospectors, and of the conflicting loyalties and tensions in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
One of the most famous fugitives in BC history, Gunanoot’s story has taken on the status of legend. Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot is a fascinating tale of turn-of-the-century crime-solving techniques, rural politics and backwoods survival, based on never-before published, firsthand accounts of the two undercover operatives.
“Curious that there’s a road named after Simon Gunanoot in Williams Lake, some 500 km away by air (or 700 km by road or packtrail) from the homeland of this legendary Gitxsan trapper, backwoodsman and outlaw in Hazelton/Kispiox country. It attests to the widespread fame and fascination of the man who evaded authority for thirteen years after a suspicious double murder in 1906.
Author Geoff Mynett offers an intriguing perspective into one of British Columbia’s most celebrated fugitives, told through the analytic eye and legal mind of a retired lawyer. Mynett’s play-by-play account of Pinkerton operatives hard on the trail of their ‘man’ across the rugged Northern British Columbia landscape takes you to the heart of the drama. The author’s legal analysis of Gunanoot’s 1919 court case into the murders is particularly revealing. Mynett’s meticulous research and supporting documents that include correspondence, articles and transcripts, offer a unique authenticity to the Gunanoot story never before told.”
—Sage Birchwater, author of Chilcotin Chronicles
“Simon Peter Gunanoot is the iconic Gitxsan outlaw who stands astride a ‘Wild West’ in British Columbia that was wilder than any American pulp writer imagined. It’s a story of colliding cultures, colonial authority, Indigenous resistance and of conflicting concepts of rights, justice and governance that still reverberate through current events. Sifting through secret police reports dispatched during a thirteen-year manhunt, Geoff Mynett sheds a shrewd and discerning light on the social history they inadvertently reveal. As compelling as the best police procedural, his meticulously researched book is an extraordinary and important contribution to BC history.”
—Stephen Hume, long-time Vancouver Sun columnist and award-winning author
“There are few stories in Canadian history like the story of Simon Gunanoot. Mynett provides us with excellent descriptions of the characters involved, and the conditions on the Upper Skeena river in the early 1900s. Above all we are treated to the actual written reports of the undercover Pinkerton’s agents assigned to find Gunanoot and bring him to justice. These reports provide a fascinating record of the effort to find him, but also a glimpse into the social conditions of the time and the tensions around land and settlement—tensions which reverberate even today.
Geoff Mynett has done us a great service by opening up fresh sources of information about this remarkable story of an Indigenous hero forced to go on the run. For those interested in the great dramatic stories of Indigenous and Canadian history, this book is a ‘must have.’”
—Dr. Peter Newbery, CM, OBC