BC Heritage Fairs Alumni

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Kamloops Chinese Cemetery — May 19, 2020

Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

By Trevor, Junior Council

Last summer I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the BC Provincial Heritage Fair in Victoria.  It was such an amazing experience and so full of history as we visited significant places around the Victoria area.  It inspired me to visit some historical sites when I returned to my home in Kamloops.  One such site is the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery.  It was interesting to actually visit the site that I had only seen pictures of at our local museum.

The Kamloops Chinese Cemetery is located in the southwestern outskirts of downtown Kamloops.  It is on a grassy slope overlooking the Thompson River and Mount Paul as seen below in the photo.

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View of the cemetery looking down the grassy slope.
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This is a picture of the main gate going into the cemetery.  To the right of this photo is the grassy slope mentioned above.

Many Chinese immigrants first came to BC before it was even considered a province.  They came in search of gold, in the 1860s, during the Cariboo gold rush.  When the gold rush ended, the Chinese found work building the railway.  In the 1880s, The Canadian Pacific Railway was created through Kamloops and many Chinese came to live in the area as they worked on the railway.  There were over 17,000 Chinese workers who helped to build the Yale-Kamloops line. When the railway was finished many of these Chinese workers chose to settle in Kamloops and in 1890 there were over 400 Chinese residents. This was approximately one third of the Kamloops population. A section of downtown Kamloops was the original site for a Chinatown. In 1897, The Kamloops Sentinel created the first record of the cemetery in an article that they wrote.

It is one of Canada’s oldest and biggest intact Chinese cemeteries.  It showed that the temporary Chinese residents decided to become a more permanent part of the community in the 1920s. Many of the immigrants had intended to return back to China in 5-10 years and the cemetery was created as a temporary burial place.  They had not been allowed to bury their deceased in the Pioneer Cemetery, so the HBC decided to give them some land south of the town to use as a burial site. Surrounded by a wooden fence, there was an altar and a burner placed near the north section of the cemetery. Many of the graves were not marked until after 1923 when the Chinese Exclusion Act was created and they chose to settle down in Kamloops. At this time, permanent, marked tombstones started to be installed as early as 1927. Many of the marked graves are dated from the years between 1930 into the 1960s.

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Picture of the markers located in the cemetery.

In 1979 the cemetery was closed. It is all that is left of the Kamloops historic Chinatown. It contains approximately 125 burial plots. Over 50 of these plots were disinterred. More recently, the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery Heritage Society has been trying to restore and rehabilitate the area as a place for community commemoration and worship. It is the only Chinese controlled cemetery in BC. Many come to visit the cemetery today to pay their respects to the people who are buried here.



Editor’s note: If you’re also staying close to home, there are lots of great resources to explore heritage virtually: Historic Places Day website, Virtual Museum of Canada, or BC Culture Online, just to name a few. You can also check with your local museum to see what they’re doing virtually – many summer programs have been moved online. 

The Spanish Flu — May 9, 2020

The Spanish Flu

by Daniel, Junior Council

As we stay at home and learn remotely during these pandemic times, it is important to note how  Canadians have understood such uncertain times in our past. It is part of examining our heritage to not only review the actual tales of bygone days, but also how we were able to prevail in the end, or how our nation continued on. Around 100 years ago, Canadians witnessed one of the worst disease pandemics in all of history: the Spanish Flu (which did not come from Spain, in fact its origins are still debated today). It killed millions of people in the years after the First World War, and because of the older technology and undeveloped forms of diagnosis in those days, we couldn’t stop it. It was a silent enemy, and is still around today. Both COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu are viruses, which meant that both could spread easily without the necessary precautions.

So how did we combat the virus in the past, and how has it changed? Notably, we now have better forms of treatment and diagnosis, along with better research techniques. The Canadian medical system now also has a quicker reaction to the virus, thanks to our expanded digital community, along with having made preparation for such events (such as medical stockpiles). However, one of the major things we do, staying at home and quarantining possibly asymptomatic carriers, were also done in the past. So in these uncertain times, when we look back at similar events, it is interesting to learn how much we still retain from the past, and how much we have changed.

A Judge’s Perspective… — May 7, 2020

A Judge’s Perspective…

Editor’s note: a few school fairs in the Vancouver region were held before the schools shut down, and Tracy was able to be an adjudicator at some of those fairs. Vancouver students are often interviewed by students their own age, and the Vancouver Regional Alumni are incredibly involved in the school and regional fairs. If you’re interested in learning more, you can get in touch with your own regional coordinator and see if there’s a role for you! 


by Tracy, Junior Council

As Alumni, I’m sure we can all remember being judged. At school fairs, then, at regionals… and finally presenting to a whole bunch of strangers at Provincials. I’m not sure many of us would like to do that again. I’m not sure I would – with all the judging and note-taking and the JUDGING and not knowing what they thought of you… In the good old days before social distancing happened, I had the very special opportunity to inflict the very same uncertainty upon fellow students. In other words, I got to adjudicate Heritage Fair projects.

First stop was Kerrisdale Elementary with a class of French Immersion, Gifted-and-Talented students.

I would just like to say WOW, these projects are absolutely all amazing and I loved all the ones I got to see, but since I’m only allowed to pick a few to write about…

This one project made my jaw drop and I couldn’t pick it up again for quite a long time. Rebecca, who is so amazing, did her project on the differences between females in Indigenous legends and traditional Grimm fairy tales, and how in the Indigenous tales, the female lead usually uses her own strengths to save the prince, but in fairytales like original Sleeping Beauty, the prince rapes her when she’s asleep then goes back to his wife. 

Secondly, there was Noah, whose project was on the Danish Resistance in WW2. He did so much research on this project and you could tell because his presentation was 15 minutes long and left me wanting to know more. We don’t really hear about Denmark when we learn about WW2, and the Canadian parachute troop that marched down to Wismar through Nazi territory and held their ground against the Soviet army. 

And then there’s Carson, and his project on the Silver Dart. You could tell right away that he was really passionate about his topic – and for his creative component, he built his own aileron, which is the method airplane engineers used instead of wing warping (which he explained). I still have a hard time not being awed by this.

Quick lunch, and then off to a second school, Tecumseh Elementary.

The first person I interviewed at Tecumseh was Elizabeth, who was even more nervous than I was, if that was even possible! Her project was on racism against Asian immigrants and she brought up issues that existed in the late 1900’s and early 1910’s that I didn’t know existed and how they still existed today.

If Elizabeth is reading this right now, please please please ignore the person who was rude about your project, I found it absolutely brilliant. You should be so proud of yourself.

The next project that really pulled my attention was Eloise’s project on the Cariboo Gold Rush. She had so much energy and you could tell that she loved her topic! Her board explained how it helped found BC as a province, which is not something people bring up often. Eloise also mentioned something about a camel problem after the gold rush – because at one point in history, BC had a foreign camel infestation.

Oh, and of course, how could I forget? Our Junior Alumni Council’s very own Daniel was there, too, with a poster board, a book (he wrote himself!), models, a 3-D map, a slideshow, etc. etc. on the Northwest Passage. Not gonna lie, this blew my mind completely. He covered everything from the history to how it made Canadians feel to how it affected the local Inuit peoples living in the area, and of course, a visual guide to one of the most famous perished explorers – the well-known Sir John Franklin (and his wife, Jane!) and many others.

I could go on about these for hours, probably, but get involved in your local Heritage Fair judging the next time you have a chance in the probably very distant future! My mind was blown and I’d only visited two schools.

When the we (as judges) are adjudicating your project, we don’t really give you scores or grades. We listen, we’re actually interested, and then we pick the projects that have most lasting impressions on us. When we ask you questions, it’s because we want to know more. Don’t be afraid of the judges. We’re all quite nice. Honest.

It might seem different or even weird to be talking to people online instead of in person, but it’s really not that stressful — maybe even less so. Just relax, smile, and tell us about the aspect of Canadian history you’re most passionate about. 

Finding a Reliable Source — May 5, 2020

Finding a Reliable Source

by Kevin, Senior Council
With the advent of the internet, finding sources for projects is easier than ever. However, not all websites are created equal. Some are much more reputable than others. The most trustworthy websites are ones that end with .gov, meaning that they are government run, ensuring quality. Others very reliable sites include The Canadian Encyclopedia and databases, such as Wolfram Alpha and Google Scholar. However, some sites similar to Canadian Encyclopedia, while more wide ranging in topics, do not have the same rigorous fact-checking standards. Wikipedia is a prime example. While it and other similar websites can be used to supply dates and names, its analysis and opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.

When dealing with articles or similar material written by one person, it is important to check their credentials. These could include university degrees, time spent studying this particular topic, or endorsements by reliable experts. As well, the article should include a list of sources. These sources tend to be reputable; while you still need to make sure, most sources listed will be able to be used in projects. Finally, a large amount of typos or grammatical mistakes seriously lowers the trustworthiness of the source.