About the Originators

Ruth Sandwell graduated from Simon Fraser University in 1998 where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on the history of Salt Spring Island, 1859-1891. She taught at the University of British Columbia and McGill University before taking up a permanent position in 2002 as an assistant professor in the history program in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). She has also worked with the Gulf Island heritage community and Parks Canada researching Gulf Island history. Reflecting her growing interest in teaching history as well as writing it, she has worked developing curriculum materials for history teachers both online, and in more traditional formats.

Her dissertation, "Reading the Land: Land Policy and the Practice of Settlement, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, 1859-1891," is a reconceptualization of how people in rural Canada lived in the nineteenth century, focusing on the early settlement of Salt Spring Island. In the progress of her research, she turned up the accounts of the murders of three Black men in 1867 and 1868 on Salt Spring Island. Later, she noted that after this time, most of the island's Black population left, and the prime farm lands they had settled were re-occupied by White farmers. She began to ask if there was any connection between who benefited from the murders, and who participated in the events.

Her other publications include:

"Rural Reconstruction: Towards a New Synthesis in Canadian History," in Histoire Sociale/Social History XXVII, 53 (May 1994), pp. 1-32.

"Peasants on the Coast? A Problematique of Rural British Columbia," in Canadian Papers in Rural History vol X, Donald H. Akenson, ed., (Ganonoque: Langdale Press, 1996), pp. 275-303.

"Introduction: Finding Rural British Columbia" and "Negotiating Rural: Policy and Practice in the Settlement of Salt Spring Island, 1859-91," in Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia, Ruth Sandwell, ed., (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999), pp. 84-101.


John Lutz is an Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of Victoria. When Ruth drew his attention to the Salt Spring murders he became interested from the vantage point of his research in Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations. The murders of all three Black men were widely blamed on Aboriginal people and one man, Tshuanahusset from the Halalt nation, was hanged for William Robinson's murder. A re-examination of the evidence made him suspect that Tshuanahusset may have been framed. If the murderer was not Tshuanahusset, then who? If Tshuanahusset was innocent, how is it that he was hanged?

John Lutz has his Ph.D. in history from the University of Ottawa. He teaches about Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations in Canada and about British Columbia and Pacific Northwest history.

His recent publications include:

"Work, Sex, and Death on the Great Thoroughfare: annual migrations of "Canadian Indians" to the American Pacific Northwest," in Parallel Destinies: Canadians, Americans and the Western Border, John M. Findlay and Ken Coates, eds., (Seattle: Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest and University of Washington Press, 2002), pp. 80-103.

"Riding the Horseless Carriage to the Computer Revolution: Teaching History in the Twenty-first Century," in Histoire Sociale/Social History Vol XXXIV, 68 (November 2001), pp. 427-436.

"Making 'Indians' in British Columbia: Power, Race and the Importance of Place," in Power and Place in the North American West, John Findlay and Richard White, eds., (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), pp. 61-86.

"'Relating to the Country': The Lekwammen and the Extension of Settlement," in Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia, Ruth Sandwell, ed., (UBC Press, 1999), pp. 17-32.

"Gender and Work in Lekwammen Families, 1843-1970," in Gendered Pasts: Historical Essays on Femininity and Masculinity in Canada, Kathryn McPherson, Cecilia Morgan and Nancy M. Forestell, eds., (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 80-105.

"When is an 'Indian War' not a War?: Canadian Indians and American Settlers in the Pacific Northwest, 1850s-1860s," in Journal of the West , 38, 3 (July 1998), pp. 7-13.

"Sto':lo People and the Development of the B.C. Wage Labour Economy," in You are Asked to Witness: The Sto':lo in Canada's Pacific Coast History, Keith Thor Carlson, ed., (Chilliwack, B.C.: Sto':lo Heritage Trust, 1997), pp. 109-124. Co-authored with Keith Carlson.

Both Ruth Sandwell and John Lutz are members of the Society for the Promotion of British Columbia History whose main project is the Margaret Ormsby Scholarship Program.