I had the privilege of participating in the one day Gold Mountain River Tour on August 20, 2015. The tour was led by History Professor Henry Yu from the University of British Columbia and included other academics, researchers and members of the Lytton First Nation community. The tour focused on the history of the early settlers who lived along the Fraser River valley and their interactions with the First Nation communities.
Chinese settlers travelled up the Fraser River to gain access to gold deposits. The Chinese settlers interacted with the First Nations communities who showed them how to navigate the river and the surrounding land mass. The landscape around the Fraser River was mountainous and a knowledgeable and experienced person was needed to navigate the terrain. This was crucial for survival. Professor Yu emphasized the reciprocal nature of the relationship between the Chinese and the First Nations. The Chinese gave gifts and asked permission to attain access to the land. A good relationship was forged between these two groups which was important to the success of the Chinese people.
During the tour, we learned how the Chinese altered the land surrounding the Fraser River with rocks to redirect the water which allowed the gold to surface. Rocks were aligned individually. This was not an easy task considering Lytton has the hottest summers in Canada. The labour was manual. No technological machinery existed as we know it today. The day our tour took place, the weather’s high was 40 degrees Celsius. Feeling the heat and seeing the individual rocks still standing in place as high walls made me reflect and appreciate the arduous work the Chinese settlers faced in their quest for finding gold. We also saw the land where cabins were once built for the Chinese settlers to reside in. The cabins are long gone except for their imprints on the land which still remains for us to see.
Seeing, learning and understanding about this history first hand provided me with a sense of appreciation for the intelligence, strength and spirit of the Chinese and First Nations settlers. The Gold Mountain River Tour was a wonderful and informative experience which brought the history of the early Chinese settlement in Canada to life.