2022 Victoria The BC Historical Federation at 100: Facing a Crossroads

The BC Historical Federation at 100: Facing a Crossroads

In October 1922, a small group of interested citizens from Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC came together at the Provincial Archives in Victoria and passed a resolution establishing the BC Historical Association. This founding of a provincial historical society was late in coming, with the rest of the country having established their own decades earlier. For decades after Confederation, historically minded British Columbians gathered in a constellation of organizations devoted to providing a sense of history to an immigrant society which had very little of it.

For these men and women, this society literally brought the region into the realm of history, for they believed without question that the province’s Indigenous peoples had no history—the latter lacked a written language by which to record their past and stood outside the march of “civilization.” The production and commemoration of history was part of the project of settler colonialism—it would anchor the immigrant society in the new land and justify its dispossession of the native inhabitants. Such was the founding mandate of the BCHA, and it was pursued in the many decades since.

This was a task we might shudder from when stated so baldly. But any commemoration of the organization’s past and present must recognize this core part of its existence, must face it in the long new task of remaking the organization for today and the following years.

Chad Reimer, whose presentation to the recent BC Historical Federation conference can be viewed below, has published five books of BC history: Deadly Neighbours: A Tale of Colonialism, Cattle Feuds, Murder and Vigilantes in the Far West, The Trials of Albert Stroebel: Love, Murder and Justice at the End of the Frontier, Before We Lost the Lake: A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley, which received an honourable mention in the BC Historical Federation’s Historical Writing Awards, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, and Writing British Columbia History. He holds a BA in Honours History from the University of BC, along with an MA and PhD in History from York University. He was born in Winnipeg and now lives in Williams Lake.