By Laura Saimoto & Rory Lindsay, past president of the Slocan Valley Historical Society
In 2017, the Legacy Committee worked in partnership with the Slocan Valley Historical Society to install the Slocan Extension (Lemon Creek, Slocan City, Bayfarm, Popoff) Internment Site Highway Legacy Sign at the entrance to Slocan City. The Kootenays (Slocan Extension, New Denver, and Kaslo) had the largest concentration of interned Japanese Canadians, close to 10,000 out of the 22,000 who were interned.
As part of the Society’s commitment to honour the history of the area, they have been restoring the Buddhist memorial at the back of the Slocan cemetery, honouring those cremated there. The New Canadian, the Japanese-Canadian newspaper, explained in its September 2, 1944 edition: “Plans have been made by the Slocan Buddhist Mission Society to erect a memorial monument (seirei to) in commemoration of the deceased who were cremated at the Slocan cemetery before the New Denver Crematorium was completed. Permission has been granted to erect this monument and work is expected to begin in the near future.”
The Society checked death registrations and found at least nine people — six men, a woman, a child, and an infant — were cremated in Slocan before the New Denver crematorium was established in April 1943. Seven more are likely, but their deaths were either not registered or didn’t specify the place of cremation. “There were some sad cases among them. Takeo Kinoshita, 9, drowned in Slocan Lake on the evening of July 21, 1942 while swimming with a number of other children. He had only come to Slocan from Vancouver with his family seven weeks earlier.” (“The Story of Slocan’s Japanese Monument,” Greg Nesteroff, Nelson Star, Feb. 3, 2014).
To date, thanks to a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust’s community initiatives program, the Society has rebuilt the fence surrounding the memorial and erected a discreet interpretive pedestal at the site informing visitors what the memorial commemorates. The last piece of the cemetery restoration is restoring the monument. It was restored in the 1980s, but now is rotting and in bad shape. The project budget is limited, so we have asked for help from generous friends in the community. A local sawmill in Surrey donated the western red cedar post (6’ tall solid post). Hinterland Design, a woodwork artisan shop, a neighbour of the Japanese Hall, is heavily discounting the woodwork; and Rev. Fujikawa, a retired Shin Buddhist minister, is volunteering to write the Japanese calligraphy on the monument. The Buddhist message in Japanese will be engraved into the wood, and then repainted and varnished so it will withstand the elements for many years.
As a memorial monument, we ask the community to support this worthy project. The Slocan Valley Historical Society is an all-volunteer not for profit society that depends on donations and grants to carry out its work. We aim to complete and bless the monument in the spring/summer. Donations can be made to the Society to support its ongoing work and tax receipts will be issued by the Village of Slocan. We are grateful for donations, no matter the amount. For more info, please contact the society at firstname.lastname@example.org or Laura Saimoto, email@example.com.
Supporters: Pat Demens (secured red cedar donation); Hinterland Design www.hinterlanddesign.com (wood artisan shop); Rev. Orai Fujikawa (calligrapher); Nikkei National Museum & the Japanese Canadian Legacy Committee; BC Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Churches Federation; Joy Kogawa.
Please mail donation cheques to:
Slocan Valley Historical Society (SVHS)
Slocan, BC V0G 2C0