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A Website Captures History of Tashme Internment Camp

Photo: NNM 1994-69-4-27

In July 1942, the Tashme Internment Camp, the largest in Canada, opened its doors to Japanese Canadians who had been ordered removed from the coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Formerly called the Fourteen Mile Ranch, the camp was located 14 miles southeast of Hope, British Columbia (BC), just outside the 100-mile “protected” zone imposed by the government. It covered 1,200 acres and, at its peak, was home to 2,644 internees. Located in an isolated valley between high mountains, it was a self sufficient small village with wooden tar paper covered shacks for homes, schools, a hospital, a power plant, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, fire station, churches, a sawmill, and a commercial center.

In answer to the question: "What was everyday life in the Tashme Internment Camp really like?," the Tashme Historical Project researchers collected vast amounts of information, documents, and photographs and then designed and constructed a website to serve as a living and evolving interactive repository of historical material about the Tashme Internment Camp. The camp was closed in 1946, leaving nothing but memories. Now those memories have been collected in a comprehensive website that looks at every facet of camp life, from its organizational structure; including governance, employment, education, and health care; to everyday life, including commerce and social and sports organizations. It makes available to anyone with a web browser detailed historical records, and a diverse collection of textual, photographic, graphical, and multimedia materials. 

A wealth of knowledge is waiting to be discovered by children, grandchildren, and descendants of those who lived in Tashme—who have heard about Tashme all their lives and want to know more—as well as educational institutions, teachers, and students.

Over three years in the making, the Tashme Historical Project began with a group of interested volunteers who set out collecting information about those persons residing in Tashme from a list of names and addresses that was compiled in the fall of 1942. The list led to a campaign to collect details about individuals and families and the creation of a large scale map of Tashme with names attached to each house and apartment. A Tashme Day to present the early results held on April 4, 2013 attracted and incented additional interested volunteers to undertake more extensive research into all facets of the physical, economic, and social aspects of Tashme. We adopted the elements of a small village as the framework for information collection.

We first identified and sought information about the physical infrastructure of Tashme: its location, layout, streets, buildings, gardens, and other structural aspects of a village. Then we researched the organizational aspects of the village: governance and administration, municipal services, schools, employment, commercial aspects, and social aspects like sports and recreation. We chose topics that if addressed in sufficient detail would describe the everyday life of its residents. Countless hours were spent in researching and collecting information from available sources. Organization of information became a major challenge.

Adopting a website for information dissemination rather than attempting to write a book was an easy decision. The power of the internet allows us to continually update and rapidly disseminate the information in a multi-media format to a worldwide audience. Design and construction of the website culminated in a public launch of www.tashme.ca on March 20, 2016.

While the current version of the website describes very well the physical and functioning aspects of Tashme as a village, ongoing work is adding more materials: video and audio files of interviews with former Tashme residents, videos that illustrate various aspects of Tashme life, and stories of individual Tashme internment experiences. There was more to life in Tashme than work and school.

Our goal is to provide a complete and detailed description of everyday life that includes social aspects like recreation, sports, after school, leisure, and social activities that made life tolerable under the difficult circumstances of incarceration. A recently added project goal is the creation of a teacher/student curriculum and education guide for BC students about the Tashme Internment Camp and the Japanese Canadian internment experience. 

The Tashme Historical Project Website is a collaboration of the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, BC and the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, Ontatio. Information sources include Library and Archives Canada, the University of British Columbia Special Collections, United Church of Canada Archives, archived newspapers like The New Canadian and the Nikkei National Museum and Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and other archives.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the start of internment in 2017, we hope that www.tashme.ca will create interest and inspire others to recall their internment experiences for preservation for future generations. We invite www.tashme.ca users to recall their experiences, donate photographs and documents, and contribute stories to this important historical record of the Japanese Canadian internment experience. 

 

© 2016 Howard Shimokura

british columbia camps Canada japanese canadians tashme Tashme Historical Project World War II