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Joan Gillis fonds

  • RBSC-ARC-1786
  • Fonds
  • 1941 - 1988

The fonds consists of the incoming correspondence to Joan Gillis from a group of young Japanese Canadians she met while attending Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Surrey. The fonds includes 149 letters and 10 small photographs, referred to colloquially as ‘snaps’ in the letters, sent from a total of 13 different correspondents. The majority of the correspondence took place during 1942 to 1946, with different friends writing from farms and work camps in Northern British Columbia, Manitoba, and Alberta. The letters provide insight into the Japanese Canadian internment, which occurred against the backdrop of a larger cultural context. Since the early 1900s Japanese immigrants and persons of Japanese descent living in Canada were subject to racially targeted legislation, including limits on immigration, limits on fishing licenses, and being denied the right to vote based on racial status.

In the spring of 1941 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) fingerprinted and registered all Japanese Canadians over the age 16, who were required to carry identification cards until 1949. Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, Canada declared war on Japan. The Royal Canadian Navy impounded the fishing boats of the Japanese Canadian fishing community, and within two months 1,200 Japanese Canadian owned boats were sold. On February 24th 1942 the federal government authorized the removal of all persons of Japanese origin, and gave the RCMP the power to search without warrant, to impose a dawn to dusk curfew, and to confiscate all cars, radios, firearms, and cameras. Mass forced dispersal and dispossession ensued, with all Japanese Canadians being sent to internment camps, to work on farms, and perform other forms of hard labor, living in very poor conditions through the much colder winters of Canada’s interior.
The letter-writers discuss their day-to-day life at the camps, living and working conditions, their new schools and teachers, and ask after Gillis’ life in Surrey and the on-goings at Queen Elizabeth (Q.E.) secondary school.
Gillis kept the correspondence bound in twine or ribbon, which is also included in the fonds. A government censor opened and read many, if not all of the letters, and many of the envelopes bear a sticker or stamp marking this. Many of the letters are hand-written, some are typed, and some are written on postcards. Listed at the file level is the full name of each correspondent and his or her specific geographical location.

Gillis, Joan

The “Soapy” Smith Tragedy

1st edition, compiled and copyrighted by Shea and Patton. Item is said to have been written by H.B. LeFebre, of Skagway. It is a condensed history of the reign of terror and outlawry in White Pass and the Skagway country in 1898, the formation of the vigilance committee, Soapy Smith

[Unknown] (Authorized heading)

Map of the Klondike, Stewart, Fortymile and Sixtymile gold fields in the Yukon Territory

The mapper apparently had some special interest in the Sixtymile River area southwest of Dawson, and added the names and locations of creeks emptying into First South Fork. The region adjacent to the settlement of Dawson also show considerable detail, with most tiny creeks and gulches documented and named.

[Unknown] (Authorized heading)

Map of the Klondike, Stewart, Fortymile and Sixtymile gold fields in the Yukon Territory

An original map of the Klondike gold placer camp, showing creeks, rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, roads/trails, settlements, N.W.M.P. stations, and placer claim boundaries in great detail. Information added to the map in pencil suggests that this was a working copy, updated with data gathered during active field work. The region adjacent to the settlement of Dawson show considerable detail, with most tiny creeks and gulches documented and named.

[Unknown] (Authorized heading)

Maps and plans

Records in this series originated as a result of the recording and dissemination of geographical information as the lands, waters, and minerals of the Yukon and surrounding region were increasingly explored and appropriated by non-Indigenous peoples. The series also contains technical drawings, originating from the development of communication and transportation systems, including plans for railways and telephone lines. While the majority of records in this series were created by a corporate or government body, including the Yukon Engineering Services and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, a few items were created by individuals for personal use, such as a hand drawn map of the Klondike gold fields by Tappan Adney. Materials in this series range in date from ca. 1888 to 1995.

Objects and sound recording

Materials in this series consist of three-dimensional objects from the Klondike gold rush period, the Klondike gold rush centennial, and a sound recording, ranging in date from 1896 to 1997. Some objects in this series originated from businesses and individuals honouring and commemorating the lasting impact of the Klondike gold rush, whereas others were created during the gold rush as tools of trade. Major record types in this series include coins and tokens, but also included are playing cards, textile materials, and a puzzle.

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