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Japanese internment recounted

Wood's artwork, historic photos featured in Britannia Mine Museum exhibit

Naru Endo was born in 1917 in Shannon Bay, now known as Darrell Bay. Endo spent her early years in Britannia Beach, where her father worked at the Britannia Mine. On Oct. 28, 1921, a temporary dam burst, causing a flood that killed 37 people, washed away about half the homes in the community and caused Endo's family to move across Howe Sound to Woodfibre.

When Endo was 24, her young family was living in Vancouver, where her husband worked as a commercial fisherman. In early 1942, after the Second World War broke out, the Japanese-Canadian family and others of Japanese descent who lived within a 100-mile "exclusion zone" in coastal B.C. were forced to move inland in what's now considered one of the darkest episodes in Canadian history.

Endo's father lost his fishing boat and livelihood when the family was forced to move to Greenwood in the southern B.C. interior, said Arleigh Wood, recounting information provided by her now-94-year-old grandmother, who is alive and well and living in Vancouver.

Wood, a Vancouver-based artist, has created a number of multi-media works related to the Japanese internment for the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, using photos of her family's past. Wood said that when she heard the Nikkei was partnering with the Britannia Mine Museum on a display marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese internment, she was excited to create a couple of pieces for the exhibit.

One of the pieces, titled "Sea Dreams," uses a photograph of Naru Endo as a youngster, alone in a rowboat on Shannon Bay. It also includes a painted wood carving created by Wood, depicting a Japanese-style wave pattern and words with some of Naru Endo's verbal recollections of the Britannia flood.

"I just really wanted to tell her story, but it's also a very personal interpretation," Wood said. "I think it's a really important thing, but it's difficult. People try to paint it in a certain way, but when it's your family you want to depict that and try to put your own interpretation on it."

Wood's pieces are part of "Stolen Lives: Remembering the Japanese Canadian Internment," on display at the Britannia Mine Museum through April 6. It also includes a special photo exhibit showcasing Japanese Canadians, some of whom worked at the mine starting not long after it went into operation in 1904.

Diane Mitchell, curator of education and collections at the museum, said that while she doesn't have exact figures, significant number of people of Japanese descent lived and worked in Britannia.

While they worked with the non-Japanese employees, often in fairly close quarters, they mostly lived in a segregated area up the hill from the main townsite in an area that was sometimes called "Jap Camp," Mitchell said.

"There was a time where there was discrimination but there were also strong feelings of people being taken away from there when the internment came," she said.

Of "Stolen Lives," Mitchell said, "There's a lot of people who don't really know about the internment and we wanted to put something together as a reminder of that historic event."

During school spring break from Saturday (March 10) to March 25, activities at the Mine Museum will feature a Japanese theme, including performances by the Vancouver-based drum group Sansho Taiko along with Japanese origami and kite making for kids. Regular museum admission rates apply. For more information, please visit

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