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British Columbia History

British Columbia History 54.1 Spring 2021

British Columbia History chronicles British Columbia’s unique story through the words and images of community writers, archivists, museum professionals, academic historians and more. Fresh, engaging, personal and relevant, every issue is packed with articles, photographs, maps, illustrations, book reviews and insights into local archives and historic sites.

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British Columbia Historical Federation
$7.88(Incl. tax)
$26.25(Incl. tax)
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
the public side of history

I finished my biography of James Teit in the spring of 2018 and faced a difficult decision. Do I send it to a university press or to a trade press? The former targets mainly scholarly readers and the latter, more general readers. On the surface, my 500-page tome looked like a classic scholarly offering. Having spent years struggling to turn a mass of diverse facts into a compelling story, however, I worried that by placing it with an academic press, I might lose the readers I wanted to attract, most notably Indigenous readers. In the end, I chose a university press with hopes of straddling the scholarly/trade market divide. Now two years in, I have a richer perspective on the divide. From separate lines of book prizes, literary events, and book…

10 min
vancouver’s chinatown literary mappings of seclusion

We are pleased to present Harry Deng’s essay on Vancouver’s Chinatown, written for a fourth-year undergraduate history course at UBC. Deng’s essay was awarded the British Columbia Historical Federation W. Kaye Lamb Award for the Best Student work in 2020. In his application letter, Deng stated that “knowing the history of the province in which I grew up in and knowing the stories of the places I have visited creates a deeper, more meaningful connection with the space. Moreover, this knowledge has provided me with different perspectives of not only the land and its physical features, but also the people who inhabit this land and call it home.” Traditional narratives of British Columbian Chinatowns during the late 19th and early 20th centuries have usually depicted them as racially segregated forbidden enclaves. They…

1 min
the geography of settler colonialism

Peter O’Reilly was BC’s Indian Reserve Commissioner, responsible for assigning reserve lands without treaty. He travelled the province from 1880 to 1898, returning to this room to make decisions that would have devastating impacts on First Nations peoples. Many First Nations reported that he set out reserves hastily and without due consultation. In several cases, he assigned reserves while leaders were absent. O’Reilly had been instructed to consider any First Nations land that was not occupied by houses or cultivation as “waste.” The view that Indigenous people were not making “proper” use of the land was prominent in Canada; today, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on us to reject such concepts, which were used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples.…

5 min
trail museum & archives at the riverfront centre public history and the small archives: a relationship defined

“I think my grandfather worked in the smelter around 1920 and I’d love to know more. Do you have any employment records?” “Do you have city directories? I’m working on my family history and I have reason to believe an uncle and aunt lived there in the 1940s.” Spend any amount of time in a community archives or museum and you’ll hear questions like these. More often than not, the inquiries of non-academic researchers represent puzzle pieces in their own personal stories. Their requests are subtly laced with an emotion I can only define as an understated yearning to complete that metaphorical puzzle and create a picture of their ancestors to inform their own circumstances of place or situation. A community archives typically collects records based on defined criteria, often including geographical…

5 min
the purser’s dilemma

Sending children though the post is not unheard of. I found this out as I began researching the first story in this series. Children have been sent, postage paid, back and forth to relatives or school; the practice has been documented many times. They were sent as freight in charge of a train’s engineer, a purser, postman, or similar adult.1 This inherent trust in the systems of the day, postal and rail, along with a disregard for children’s safety, would be deemed criminal in the modern world. Yet in the 19th -century US, paying for little Sally by her weight, dimensions, and the distance she had to travel to visit Aunt Betty for the summer seemed normal. Thankfully, in the United States it had become a federal crime to mail…

1 min
recently released

Balancing Bountiful: What I Learned about Feminism from My Polygamist Grandmothers by Mary Jane Blackmore (Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2020) $24.95 Chicanery, Civility & Celebrations: Tales of Early Rossland by Ron Shearer (Rossland, BC: Rossland Heritage Commission, 2019) $24.95 Crossing the Divide: Discovering a Wilderness Work Ethic in Canada’s Northern Rockies by Wayne Sawchuk (Powell River, BC: Creekstone Press, 2020) $21.95 Deep and Sheltered Waters by David R. Gray (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2020) $29.95 Early Nanaimo 1857–1876 from the Diary of William J. Hughes by Carole Davidson (Victoria: Rendezvous Historic Press, 2020) $25.00 Five Little Indians by Michelle Good (Toronto: Harper Perennial, 2020) $22.99 *fiction* Little Fortress by Laisha Rosnau (Hamilton, ON: Buckrider Books, 2019) $22 *fiction* Semá:th Xo:tsa Sts’ólemeqwelh Sxó:tsa Great-Gramma’s Lake by Chris Silver, Carrielynn Victor, Kris Foulds, and Laura Schneider, illustrated by Carrielynn Victor (Abbotsford, BC: The…