Asian Canadians on Lekwungen Territories

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Songhees Elder Joan Morris sharing her recollections about bartering seafood for other staples in Oak Bay and Chinatown.
Photo by John Lutz

Forty people came together to talk about Asian Canadians on Lekwungen Territories at the Robert Bateman Centre in downtown Victoria on Monday, November 7.

Surrounded by the artistic works of Robert Bateman and a special exhibit, Resilience of the People: A Visual History of the Traditional Territory of the Lekwungen/Songhees People, Songhees Elder Joan Morris, who grew up on Chatham Island, welcomed the gathering and shared her recollections about bartering seafood for other staples in Oak Bay and Chinatown. She reminded the gathering that some places in Victoria’s Chinatown, such as the Loyal Café and the next-door taxi company, provided support and services to First Nations when many white-run shops refused entry to Indigenous peoples.

Community activist and City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe took participants on a fascinating journey to trace her Aboriginal heritage.  Although not yet verified, she believes her grandmother had roots in the Okanagan First Nations, whose territory extends into Washington State and the Colville Reservation.

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Discussion following the presentations. (l to r: Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Gordon Switzer, Ann-Lee Switzer, John Adams, Mahinder Doman)
Photo by John Lutz

A stimulating discussion took place after refreshments, followed by presentations by Mahinder Doman, author of Zhindagee—a collection of stories of first daughters of the South Asian communities on Vancouver Island; Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer talking about the Japanese Canadian communities; and John Adams speaking on Chinese market gardening in Greater Victoria.

The workshop was the third such gathering following sessions in Nanaimo and Salt Spring Island earlier this year.