Don and Lion Islands are located along the South Arm of the Fraser River in Richmond, BC. Between 1885 and 1930, Lion Island was home to the Ewen Cannery, one of the largest salmon canning operations in the province. During the summer canning season it employed a multi-ethnic labour force housed in spatially segregated camps, including a two-story Chinese bunkhouse located adjacent to the canning complex. In 1901, a small community of Japanese fishermen and their families settled on adjacent Don Island and supplied salmon to the cannery until its closure in 1930, after which most residents moved to the mainland.
Archaeological excavations were conducted on the remains of the Chinese bunkhouse and the Japanese community in 2005 and 2006, as part of a PhD in Archaeology at Simon Fraser University. The goal was to compare the daily lives of first generation Asian immigrants to Canada in terms of how they coped with life in a new and unfamiliar environment. Results indicate that both groups retained some elements of daily life from the homeland but adopted other habits common in local Canadian society, albeit in unique ways. Through contacts with family members back home, the lives of these immigrants reflected not only cultural tradition, but also dramatic economic and cultural changes occurring in China and Japan."
Doug Ross lives in Burnaby and has recently received his PhD in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University focusing on the lives of Chinese and Japanese immigrants on Don and Lion Islands.
Program Coordinator & Museum Assistant
National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre
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