LETTER: Series laid groundwork for heritage recognition

Claus Schunke is certainly to be praised for his doggedness in getting Nelson’s Chinatown acknowledged as a BC historical landmark.

Claus Schunke organized the creation and placement of the stone marker at Hall and Vernon that commemorates Nelson's former Chinatown. He's pictured here in his Chinese Liberation Army coat. Schunke is hoping to build a traditionally-styled gazebo on the site.

Re: “Province recognizes Nelson’s Chinese heritage”

Claus Schunke is certainly to be praised for his doggedness in getting Nelson’s Chinatown acknowledged as a BC historical landmark, a recognition long overdue.

I was proud to have perhaps laid the groundwork for Claus’s initiative when I was writing my Heritage Beat column for the Nelson Daily News, in which I authored 10 articles about the Chinese history of Nelson. Up to that time, very little had been written on the subject, as if the lingering racism of the 19th century was still persisting.

I remain grateful for the generous help and friendship of the Lawrence Mar and Cam Mah families in unearthing aspects of that history, including artifacts, that had previously been forgotten. I worked hard to be as accurate as possible in my historical writing, devoting up to 20 hours of research for every column. So it won’t surprise you that I am a stickler for the facts when it comes to history.

Therefore, to say there were once 1,000 Chinese in Nelson is not entirely accurate. In my February 18, 2000 column, I wrote: “The Chinese community in the West Kootenay once boasted 600 members in Nelson and possibly another 300 between Trail, Castlegar, and Rossland.”

Even so, because they were considered an underclass, truly accurate population figures for the historical period are hard to come by. Thanks to the Star for running this important story.

Art Joyce, New Denver

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