Fish Stories and Histories: Representations of Cultural Minorities and the Canadian State

by Trevor Downham

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In the spring of 2013, Nishga Girl, a gillnet fishing boat in the Canadian Museum of Civilization disappeared from Canada Hall, taking with it the “Westcoast Communities” portion of the exhibit. In the blink of an eye, a whole history had disappeared from Canada’s most visited national museum. The removal of the boat was met with harsh criticism from the National Association of Japanese Canadians, the Nisga’a donors Harry and Deanna Nyce and many newspapers from British Columbia to Ontario, who where outraged because it appeared as though their history was no longer to represented in the new Canadian Museum of History. This article examines the history of Nishga Girl as a representation of First Nations- Japanese- Canadian historical affinity featured in the Canadian Museum of History. Specifically, arguing that Nishga Girl is symbol of friendship between Jack Tasaka and Eli Gosnell and manifests the struggles of First Nations’ and Japanese-Canadians who have, in spite of complex issues and episodes of state oppression, contributed enormously to the West Coast fishing industry in Canada. The attempted exclusion of the exhibit, executed by the Canadian Museum of History, exemplifies the existence of ever constant uneven power relations endured by Canada and marginalized peoples.


Representation, Minorities, Fishery, Performativity


Trevor A Downham lives in Ottawa and is currently studying at Carleton University. Trevor has worked in Canada, England and France in the tourism industry and continues to visit new places whenever he can. As a Tour Guide in Ottawa, he has often accompanied tourists to the Parliament Buildings and to museums in the National Capital, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History).  Trevor is an avid student of politics: listening to Question Period in the House of Commons is a favorite pastime.  He prefers to travel on two wheels in all seasons and is passionate about museums, history and people.