For more than a century, the publishing industry was awash in stories about dominant European culture in B.C. and the so-called great men of history.
But that’s been changing in recent years as historians have begun exploring other, equally important aspects of our past.
As part of our series of articles highlighting B.C.-published books and B.C. authors during the holiday season, here are three titles that tell stories about communities that haven’t received as much attention as they deserve.
By David R. Gray (Royal B.C. Museum)
This is not a simple book, as it details the history of the Tsartlip people dating back to archeological times in Tod Inlet. It's located in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park on southeastern Vancouver Island, beside the Saanich Peninsula.
In addition, David R. Gray’s compelling social history covers everything from ancient artifacts to the creation of a cement plant, the role of Sikh labourers in the early 20th century, a Chinese village that was destroyed in 1921, and the development of the Butchart Gardens. This is where cultures overlapped and commerce often triumphed over nature and Indigenous ways of living.
In 2017, the Tsartlip First Nation reached an interim reconciliation agreement with the province. Today, a Tsartlip member, B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen, represents this area in the B.C. legislature.
By Crawford Kilian (Harbour Publishing)
The third edition of retired Capilano University professor Crawford Kilian’s 1978 book is particularly timely, given that the Vancouver school board has recently approved an elective for Grade 12 students called African Descent History in British Columbia.
Kilian’s book explains how a fugitive-slave law and other discriminatory legislation led many Black Californians to emigrate to British Columbia in the late 1850s. One of the community leaders, antislavery activist and businessman Mifflin Gibbs, was the first Black person in B.C. elected to municipal office when he became a Victoria city councillor.
“Working off James Pilton’s earlier MA thesis Negro Settlement in British Columbia, 1858-1871 published in 1951, Kilian has written a very accessible introduction to the history of Black presence in the province for both the casual and scholarly reader,” historian Adam Rudder writes in the foreward to the new edition.
By John Price and Ningping Yu (Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia and the Initiative for Student Teaching and Research in Chinese Canadian Studies at UBC)
A 1948 newspaper article in the Peterborough Examiner sent academics John Price and Ningping Yu on a decade-long odyssey investigating the life story of Canada’s first Chinese Canadian physician. Victoria Chung was born in Victoria in 1897, attended Victoria High School, and studied medicine at the University of Toronto on a scholarship.
She moved to China in 1923, where she practised medicine and had a fascinating life there until her death in 1966. Not only does this book cover dramatic events in China—including her false confession to Communist authorities that she was guilty of embezzlement—it also chronicles the history of Chinese Canadians in Victoria during a period of intense discrimination.