Monday, August 18, 2008

Brigade Days scene, taken from the Big House, Fort Langley, British Columbia, August 2008

This morning, the on-line Globe and Mail features an article by Josh Wingrove, "An ounce of preservation is worth a ton of history" about the lack of attention Canadians and the Canadian government have been paying to our built heritage and history.

Mark Warawa, Fort Langley, British Columbia, Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to Canada's Minister of Environment John Baird, will be devoting time in the next few months to promoting the idea of a Canadian National Heritage Trust. That's good to hear but I'll want to know the details. Currently, heritage preservation projects programmes in Canada are mainly individual, provincial or civic ones. We have had national programmes in the past, however.

'Fort Langley', for example, is now a national historic site. Once abandoned and decaying, today this Hudson's Bay Company fort site is a vibrant 'living history' museum. The annual Brigade Days celebration the beginning of this month was a good example of that as thousands of people toured the fort, sampling life from long ago. Re-enactors slept in their tents each night and during the days demonstrated skills as varied as spinning and loading black powder. This was a very special Brigade Days too as the 'Children of Fort Langley', descendants of those who lived and worked at the fort, held a reunion.

Fort Langley was the place where, in 1858, Governor James Douglas read the proclamation declaring this territory a British colony and thus, this year in British Columbia, we've been celebrating our 150th anniversary. Interestingly, it was in preparation for our 100th anniversary in 1958 that the preservation of Fort Langley began.

Watching people in the fort over the Brigade Days weekend, it was easy to see how quickly and how positively people respond to history presented in a restored or rebuilt environment. But many other sites in our province are in danger; provincial and urban heritage societies regularly post lists of 'most endangered' buildings.

The Globe and Mail article mentions, for instance, the Church of the Holy Cross, the 'Skookumchuck Church', in Skatin, B.C. in the Lilloett River valley, c. 1900, built by the people of the Stl'atl'imx Nation from local cedar over a period of 8 years. This church was designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 1981, but still hasn't been completely restored.

A book, Spirit in the Land: Our Place of Prayers, by Sharon E. Syrette and Yvonne A.M. Peters, is available and the volunteers of the Ama Liisaos Heritage Trust Society are fundraising to restore the church. Please have a look at the Society's webpage and consider buying the book and making a donation.


"An ounce of preservation is worth a ton of history. With heritage sites across Canada increasingly at risk of being torn down, advocates call for a national trust of endangered buildings ." Josh Wingrove, Monday's Globe and Mail, August 18, 2008 at 3:57 AM EDT:

Ama Liisaos Heritage Trust Society, Church of the Holy Cross, Skatin, B.C.:

The Heritage Canada Foundation, 'At Risk' building List, including the Church of the Holy Cross:

Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada:

Children of Fort Langley:

BC150 Years - celebration event details, B.C. history and more:

1 comment:

Gerry said...


Thank you for your participation during Brigade Days and the lovely write-up on your blog. We truly appreciate the support and commendation from members of the heritage community, such as yourself, that help to keep heritage before the public and promoted for the good of humanity. Thank you.