EWEN SALMON CANNERY, RICHMOND, BC
Douglas Ross and Robert Muir
In the summer semester of 2013 the Department of Archaeology held a local field school on Don and Lion Islands along the lower Fraser River in Richmond, BC. Taught and co-directed by Drs. Robert Muir and Douglas Ross the field school included participation by nineteen undergraduate students.
The islands were once home to the Ewen Salmon Cannery (1885-1930), previously the subject of Dr. Ross’ doctoral research at SFU on the everyday lives of Chinese and Japanese labourers at the cannery (Ross 2009) and detailed in his book, An Archaeology of Asian Transnationalism (Ross 2013). Canneries usually included racially segregated, multiethnic work camps housed in seasonally occupied wooden buildings erected on pilings over the intertidal zone. Chinese immigrant men comprised a large proportion of the workforce inside the canneries, which also included European men and Japanese and aboriginal women, while Japanese men worked almost exclusively as fishermen, alongside First Nations and Europeans from various nations. Our research objective was to gather data from work camps and individual dwellings associated with the cannery to expand Ross’ comparative study to include individuals and groups from other ethnic/racial and class backgrounds. The bulk of investigation efforts focused on two adjacent bunkhouses of unknown ethnic affiliation located midway along the north shore of Lion Island and the Japanese fishing camp at the eastern end of the island. We also conducted limited inves-tigations at the location of two small dwellings in the industrial complex at the west end of Lion Island, plus surface collection of artifacts at the site of the cannery manager/caretaker’s house and the Chinese bunkhouse.
In conjunction with the field school, students completed independent research projects on some aspect of the history, archaeology, or material culture of the cannery and its inhabitants. Of par-ticular note are Roger Cristostomo’s GIS-based reconstruction of the former locations of cannery structures and Eric Simons and Sara Bucci’s field survey of contemporary plant species on both islands for evidence of possible links to the cannery period.
In mid-July, a film crew from Metro Vancouver visited Lion Island and produced a short video on our research, which can be found in the Media Room section of the metrovancouver.org web-site or viewed directly. Some of the highlights of our fieldwork were also chronicled in a student-run blog, which we are up-dating as analyses progress.