Leone Caetani sitting on the front lawn of his home in Vernon with a dog circa 1927.

“Enriched all aspects of our society”

In recognition of Italian Heritage Month, which is celebrated every June, Minister Hussen stated that “with more than 1.5 million people of Italian heritage, Canada is the proud home of one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world. From business to sports, cuisine, politics, and much more, the community has enriched all aspects of our society, and continues to do so.”

Italian immigrants in Canada and the Okanagan

Leone, Ofelia, and Sveve photographed in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. Vernon Museum and Archives #12730.

The immigration of Italians to Canada is closely tied to political and social turmoil in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In particular, the rise of fascism under Mussolini changed the fortunes of many Italians, and some decided to immigrate to Canada to seek out new and safer opportunities. Many settled in communities in B.C., including Vancouver, Trail, Rossland, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Powell River, Duncan, and Vernon. The Okanagan’s first Italian immigrant was Giovanni Casorso, who arrived in Kelowna in March of 1883, followed by his wife and children in 1884.

This photo of Leone, taken in 1921, shows him leaning on a chair in Ofelia’s villa in Rome “on the eve of their departure for Canada.” Greater Vernon Museum & Archives #12142.

A duke immigrates to Vernon

Meanwhile, one of Vernon’s most well-known Italian immigrants was Leone Caetani, father of Sveva Caetani, a celebrated local artist. Leone was born on September 12, 1869, to one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Italy. In addition to serving as Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano, Leone was a gifted scholar with a degree in Ancient and Oriental Language and History, and fluent in 11 different languages.

Sveva Caetani at a solo exhibition in 1988 at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Leone first visited Canada for a hunting trip in 1891, and was captivated by its natural beauty. This likely contributed to his decision to immigrate to the country in 1921 with Sveva and her mother Ofelia. As an avid socialist, Leone, like many Italians, was also no longer comfortable in post-war, fascist Italy. 

The Caetani Family, with Ofelia’s secretary and personal companion, Miss Jüül, and a small handful of staff, arrived in Vernon in the summer of 1921.

To learn more about the Caetani Family, click here

 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Happy Father’s day!

Frank Marchand. Photo by Athena Bonneau, courtesy of https://thediscourse.ca/okanagan/frank-marchand-okanagan-changemaker.

Traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s elders and passing along knowledge to younger generations. Frank Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, epitomizes this cultural value in both the relationship he shared with his father and Elders, and in the role he has played as an educator to dozens of local students.

From Father to son

Frank Marchand’s late father, Gordon Marchand, was a Master Carver, a practice and designation he passed along to his son. Now, Frank has followed in Gordon’s footsteps in emphasizing the importance of dugout canoes and traditional waterways to the syilx and secwepemc people through public education.

A photo of the in-progress canoe constructed by Frank and students from SD22 in 2022. 

CANOE CULTURE REVITALIZED

In 2020, Frank and his apprentice William Poitras spent the summer working with youth from the Westbank First Nation. Together, the group took 21-days to construct a dugout canoe, which was inaugurated at a blessing ceremony at kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), located near Osoyoos. Frank also worked with students in Kamloops’ School District 73 to create three other canoes.

That same year, Frank was nominated as a community changemaker, one of several individuals identified by IndigiNews as having a positive impact on his or her community.

Now, in 2022, Frank has spent several months working with students from Vernon’s Alternate Learning Program, Open Door Education Center, and Kal Secondary School to create another dugout canoe which will be unveiled at a ceremony at Canoe Beach. The canoe will then be on display at the Vernon Museum for summer 2022. 

In addition to revitalizing canoe culture across the Valley, Frank is also a member of the Okanagan Nation Response Team, a group of community members with extensive training in suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response.

FOOTAGE OF FRANK AND STUDENTS WORKING ON A CANOE IN 2018

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Happy Pride!

One area of historical underrepresentation within the Vernon Archives is that of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community; few, if any, records relating to their lived experiences can be found among the archives’ many stacks of papers and shelves of books. For several months, museum staff have wondered how to correct this representational gap so that Vernon’s historical record may more fully represent the city’s diverse population.

It was within this context that the museum came to make contact with Donna Langille, the Community Engagement Librarian at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, who hosts a podcast that seeks to address this very lack of LGBTQ2SIA+ records and resources within cultural heritage institutions in the Okanagan.

A Podcast with a mission

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast began as a response to many of the same limitations the museum is facing today; when Langille and her research partner, Taysha Jarett, were awarded funding through the 2020 Public Humanities Hub Okanagan Impact Awards, they originally intended to create an exhibit of local LGBTQ2SIA+ artifacts and collectibles to highlight the Queer history of the Okanagan. However, they quickly faced a lack of representational records, and even after items were secured through a call-out to the public, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the exhibit from opening.

Langille and Jarett decided to turn to podcasting to continue with their project in a pandemic-safe format. Three episodes have been published so far, with each providing an open and honest discussion around topics such as homophobia, isolation, self-worth, acceptance, and unity.

Stories Neglected

Langille believes that it is important to share and preserve the histories of the Queer community in the Okanagan because these stories have historically been, and in many cases continue to be, silenced, censored, ignored, or neglected. Communities benefit when they can see themselves and their identities reflected in public spaces, including cultural heritage institutions like museums and archives.

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast, a community-led project, is one approach to amplifying Queer stories and voices, in the hope of being able to contribute to a shared sense of history among the Queer community in the Okanagan. It is the work of individuals like Langille and Jarett that will allow the Vernon Archives and other cultural institutions to become more reflective of the entire communities they serve.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Rosalinda’s diner at 2810 33rd Street. Photo: Gwyn Evans, 2022.

The Filipino Community in Canada and Vernon

Celebrated every June, Filipino Heritage Month acknowledges one of the fastest growing multicultural communities in Canada.

Unfortunately, Filipino immigration to the Okanagan, and Vernon more specifically, is not as well documented as other cultural groups. However, as of 2016, Vernon had a Filipino population of 370 individuals.

Canada’s earliest documented Filipino immigrants were sailors living and working on the west coast; up until the 1930s, almost all immigrants were male. The population continued to increase steadily over the years, and by the 1970s, 16,913 Filipinos lived in Canada. By 2016, this number had increased to 837,130.

Vernon has an active Filipino community, with groups such the Filipino Association of Vernon (FAV) spearheading anti-racism initiatives, and relief fundraisers for family and friends suffering through natural disasters back in the Philippines.

Emergency Relief

In November of 2013, Super typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines, displacing 4.1 million people, killing more than 6,000 and leaving 1,800 missing. Vernon’s Filipino Community quickly mobilized, raising $26,000 of emergency relief through a number of community events. In 2020, another $1,315 was raised through a virtual Christmas concert for those affected by typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).

Stand up against racism

Meanwhile, in May of 2021, the FAV launched their inaugural Stand Up Against Racism initiative with a paddleboarding event at Kal Beach. Later that year, they also joined other local community groups in producing Allyship in Action, a short film sponsored by the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan to show the harmful impacts of racism and initiatives to counteract them.

ROSALINDA’S

In terms of a local success story, Rosalinda Smelser, a local business woman who was born in Mainit in the province of Surigao Del Norte, Phillipines, fits the bill. Rosalinda, who runs a diner of the same name, moved to Vernon in 1999, and opened her business in 2011. Rosalinda’s, located at 2810 33rd Street, serves both Canadian classics and Filipino favourites.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company’s Indigenous summer encampment re-creation at Head of the Lake circa 1997.

Indigenous Theatre in Canada

June is National Indigenous History Month, and an opportunity to highlight the history of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company and their contributions towards the advancement of Indigenous theatre in Canada.

When the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company was founded in Vernon in 1988, they were one of only a handful across the entirety of Canada. The company was based on ancestral storytelling practices, and provided an outlet for the expression of Indigenous cultural values and social concerns.

SEN’KLIP = COYOTE

The company’s founder, Lynn Phelan, had previously worked with an Indigenous theatre company in Vancouver before returning to her hometown of Vernon. In 1987, she started the Native Youth Summer Theatre with Ruby Alexis, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band.

The company later changed its name to the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company, after the nsyilxcen word for “Coyote.” To both the Syilx and Secwepemc People, Coyote is considered a trickster, creator, teacher, and entertainer.

In 1989, the company produced its first professional play, “Shadow Warrior,” which toured B.C. Around that time, the company also began developing its “Coyote Tales” series, based on the legends of Sen’Klip. This series was on-going throughout the years, and explored themes of respect for the Earth and its creatures.

The Power of performing arts

The next few years witnessed the continued growth of the company, in both size and popularity. 1992 was a particularly successful year, and saw the company embark on a valley-wide elementary school tour, develop an experimental traditional summer camp (later featured at the PNE), and attend an Ecotourism conference in Whistler.

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company ran for a decade, and during that time, they continuously demonstrated the power of performing arts to serve as a major method of cross-cultural communication.

Celebrating SEN’KLIP at the MAV

There will be a display of costumes from the Sen’Klip production of “How Turtle Set the Animals Free,” based on the Syilx captikʷł, at the Vernon Museum in June. Costumes and masks were created by Sen’klip founding director, and renowned Syilx artist, Barbara Marchand.

Music in the Museum performer and local singer-songwriter, Duane Marchand, is also an alumni of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Crowds enjoying the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Vernon in June of 1897.

MAY LONG

Although many of us now think of the May Long Weekend as the beginning of camping season in B.C., the history of Victoria Day is a bit more complicated.

In 1845, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada decided to officially recognize the birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24 with public celebrations. But it wasn’t until 1901, following the Queen’s death, that May 24 became officially known as “Victoria Day” in her memory.

celebrations fit for a queen

At the turn of the 20th century, the settler population in Vernon eagerly celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday, as well as her reign in general.

On June 22, 1897, Vernon celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with a series of sporting events, including baseball, lacrosse, trap shootings, and tug-of-war. Other outlying communities, including Enderby, came to compete in the day’s activities, and it is noted that Vernon won all events except tug-of-war.

May Long Weekends in Vernon were also marked with sporting events and special activities in celebration of the Queen’s birthday. On May 24, 1895, a cricket match was held between Kelowna and Vernon, with the SS Fairview offering special trips between the two cities for individuals who wished to attend.

In 1900, Enderby hosted Vernon and other nearby communities for a series of foot, horse, and canoe races. A football match was also held between the community of Lumby and employees of the Coldstream Ranch, followed by a grand ball in Morand’s Hall.

A most respected sovereign

Queen Victoria’s passing in 1901 was announced in large font on the front page of the January 24th edition of the Vernon News, as the City mourned the loss of its “Most Respected Sovereign.” Later that year, Vernon officially celebrated “Victoria Day” for the first time, with—you guessed it—sporting events, including three-legged and ladies races.

“Queen Victoria is Dead: Her Most Gracious Majesty Succumbs to the Grim Reaper. The Nation Overwhelmed with Grief. The World Sorrows over the Decease of Its Most Respected Sovereign-The End Came on Monday, at 6:55 London Time-The Prince of Wales Now King Edwards VII.”

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Mothers and babies at a clinic in Oyama in 1923.

The WORK OF THE MoTHER

The Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book.

Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to pull out the Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book, a 1936 publication from the Department of Pensions and National Health, to see how parenting has changed over the years.

The unassuming little book begins with a dedication from the Government of Canada to mothers of all forms, saying that “no national service is greater or better than the work of the mother.” This is followed by several pages on what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth.

hAPPY, hEALTHY cHILDREN

Once the baby has arrived, the Canadian Mother’s Book provides guidance on raising happy and healthy children. For example, it recommends several “indoor airing” sessions before taking babies outside in the sun for the first time, and then for only a few minutes at a time.

It also recommends giving children a few drops of cod liver oil each day starting when they are a week old, and a little orange juice or strained raw tomato juice at four weeks. For older babies, the book suggests feeding them barley, rice, or oat jelly throughout the day. It also states that “it is no kindness” to give children cake or candy instead of attuning their senses to healthier foods.  

eCONOMIZE AND CARE FOR YOURSELF

The book provides many ways to save money on children’s items (it was published during the Great Depression, after all). For example, it suggests that a good cot can be made from an orange box or banana crate, and a small mattress stuffed with chaff or bran, for a total cost of only a few cents. It also provides several patterns for making clothing and diapers by hand.

Finally, it also emphasizes the importance of mothers caring for themselves and meeting their own needs at all stages of their children’s lives. Throughout the book, adorable photos of babies dot the pages, including a set of twins waving goodbye at the end.

While some of the ideas in the Canadian Mother’s Book are obviously outdated, it authentically acknowledges the labor of love that is motherhood.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A group of children operating the Chinese lion head and body, which is now part of the Vernon Museum’s collection, circa 1935.

Asian Heritage mONTH

The Chinese Lion Head in 1977.

With May being Asian Heritage Month, it is a perfect time to uncover one of the Vernon Museum’s most fascinating, but rarely seen, artifacts.

In 1985, a traditional Chinese lion head was donated to the museum by the Chinese Free Masons. Due to its fragile condition and rarity, the head is rarely put on display, but spends most of its time in a custom-made storage container.

It is made from a framework of bamboo and wire, with brightly-coloured paper fleshing out its shape. Levers and pull-strings on its underside allow the eyes and mouth to be manipulated, and a long swath of fabric forms its body.

aN iMPORTANT cULTURAL aRTIFACT

The Chinese Lion Head in 1983.

Although its exact age is unknown, the head is believed to be more than 120 years old, and was the first to be used in Vernon. This incredible artifact made appearances at many important city events, including festivities hosted in honour of B.C.’s 100th Anniversary in 1958.

The head was also used at local Chinese New Year celebrations. While the traditional dragon dance requires at least nine performances, lion dances only require two, with one managing the head and one the body. Vernon’s lion costume was usually operated by two members of the local Chinese community, Walter Joe (1916-2005) and John Wong (1921-2001).

Lion dancing is believed to have originated in either the Han (206 BC-220 AD) or Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and has continued to evolve as form of cultural expression ever since.  

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A photo of Pauline Johnson, taken shortly before her death in 1913, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Talented Wordsmiths

Vernon has long been home to a plethora of talented wordsmiths, which a humble binder in the Vernon Archives titled “Writers” reveals. The binder is full of information about several of Vernon’s many authors and poets, arranged alphabetically from Thomas Andrews (author of Type: Writer) to Mark Zuehlke (author of Scoundrels, Dreamers, & Second Sons). The Vernon Museum is even lucky enough to have its own award-winning author and poet on staff, Laisha Rosnau.

In addition to these gifted locals, Vernon has also played host to several traveling writers over the years. One that caused a particular stir during her turn-of-the-century visit to the city was Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson).

Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson)

Tekahionwake, born in 1861, was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and daughter of Chief Onwanonsyshon (G. H. M. Johnson) and Emily Howells. Tekahionwake began writing poetry in her mid-teens, after a childhood of poor health largely confined her to indoor pursuits like reading.

Sometime after 1884, following the death of her father, Tekahionwake began a career as a public orator and embarked on a series of speaking tours in Canada, the United States, and England. Her poems were largely patriotic in nature, but she also incorporated elements of Mohawk culture into her performances.

A visit to Vernon

Tekahionwake visited Vernon in 1907, where she offered a poetry recitation in the second-floor hall of the W. F. Cameron general store. By then, she had published two volumes of poems, “The White Wampum” (1894) and “Canadian Born” (1903), and the crowd was large and appreciative.

When she passed away in 1913, the Vernon News dedicated several pages to describing Tekahionwake’s life and many cultural contributions. Despite what her critics might have said during her lifetime and beyond it, this remarkable woman paved the way for other Indigenous female voices to be heard. 

The documentary Why We Write: Poets of Vernon, by Hannah Calder and Curtis Emde, delves into the world of poets and bookmakers living in and around Vernon, British Columbia. It will premiere at the Vernon Museum on April 29 and 30. Click here to learn more.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Marie and William Brent circa 1910.

Okanagan Women’s Voices

A recent publication, edited by Jeannette Armstrong, Lally Grauer, and Janet MacArthur, explores the lives of, and relationship between, seven Syilx and settler women.

Okanagan Women’s Voices: Syilx and Settler Writing and Relations 1870s-1960 was the result of hours spent digging through archives across the Okanagan (including the Vernon Archives) to highlight the voices of Susan Moir Allison (1845-1937), Josephine Shuttleworth (1865-1950), Eliza Jane Swalwell (1868-1944), Marie Houghton Brent (1870-1968), Hester Emily White (1877-1963), Mourning Dove (1886-1936) and Isabel Christie MacNaughton (1915-2003).

Marie Houghton Brent Fonds

One collection in the Vernon archives that proved to be particularly useful to Armstrong, Grauer, and MacArthur was the Marie Houghton Brent fonds (for those unfamiliar with the term, in archival science a fonds refers to a records group). This fonds, which was donated to the Vernon Archives by the Ferry County Historical Society in 2000, contains a wealth of Brent’s correspondences, personal writings, and certificates.

Her Story

Marie Brent was the daughter of Charles Frederick Houghton and Sophie N’Kwala. Houghton, who was originally from Ireland, established the Coldstream Ranch in 1863, which he later sold to Charles and Forbes Vernon. Sophie N’Kwala was a granddaughter of the Grand Chief Hwistesmexe’qen, known commonly as N’Kwala or Nicola.  

Sadly, Sophie passed away when Marie was young, and she was raised by her great-aunt Thérèse (Teresa) N’Kwala Laurence, who raised her to be the family’s historian and taught her the stories and traditions of the Okanagan Nation. As a young women, Marie lived for a time with her father, Charles, in Montreal. She later returned to the Okanagan, where she married William Brent in 1908. Throughout her life, Marie continued in the mission ordained by her great-aunt to preserve and share her ancestral teachings, and between 1935 and 1966 wrote a series of articles which were published in the Okanagan Historical Society (OHS) reports. As Robert Hayes of the Kelowna Branch of the OHS aptly stated, “Thérèse N’Kwala Laurence chose well. We owe her and Marie Houghton Brent a debt of gratitude.”

To learn more about Marie Houghton Brent, and the other six women featured in Okanagan Women’s Voices, grab a copy of the book or join the Vernon Museum for Learn + Connect: Reading for Reconciliation, a virtual book club from April to June 2022 featuring this incredible new publication.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator