Exhibit Information

photograph of group of 4 women and 4 men dressed in casual clothing in front of red building with white trim

Members of the community instrumental in the development of "Nikkei Tapestry: the Story of Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta" at the exhibit opening, Galt Museum & Archives, February 15, 2003. Left to right: Kaye Otsuka, Fay Tamagi, Reyko Nishiyama, Tom Mitsiguna, Jiro Miyagawa, Mac Nishiyama, Rochelle Yamagishi, Lloyd Yamagishi, Toshiko Tanaka.

Photo courtesy of Pat Sassa

The exhibit "Nikkei Tapestry: the Story of Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta" was originally shown at the Galt Museum & Archives in Lethbridge, Alberta from February 15 to September 15, 2003. Plans were to turn it into a travelling exhibit. After a number of years and a changing travelling exhibit funding climate, it was decided that a virtual exhibit would allow the story to be available to a much larger audience.

The Japanese Canadian story in southern Alberta is tremendously rich. Japanese Canadians have lived in Western Canada since the late 1800s. Their cultural beliefs that encompass a respect for hard work, a need to preserve family honour, a willingness to accept decisions made by authorities, and a strong sense of community have survived through several generations and are still in evidence today.

These beliefs have carried the community through very difficult times from the days of the pioneers struggling to make a living on the land and sea, to the Second World War evacuation of the Japanese from the west coast, to the transition into the 21st Century.

Nikkei Tapestry tells the story of four generations of Japanese Canadians that have called southern Alberta home: the Issei, pioneering immigrants from the turn of the 20th century; the Nisei, their Canadian-born children; the sansei, predominantly post-war children; and the Yonsei/Hapa, today's young generation. The story of the Idosha, those that were relocated to the region to work the sugar beet farms in spring 1942, is also told along with their struggle to obtain redress from the Canadian Government for those wartime wrongs. The Shin Issei whose arrival starting in the 1960s marked a cultural renewal, are also described.

Nikkei Tapestry showcases archival documents, photographs and film, personal narratives and artifacts from the Galt Museum & Archives collections and the local Japanese Canadian community. A commissioned animation illustrates the lives led by children who were relocated during the war to southern Alberta through the work they did in the fields and the celebrations held for boys and girls in the Buddhist church.

Younger generations of Japanese Canadians and non-Japanese will learn of Japanese ancestors who settled in southern Alberta; the hard work they did to bring honour to their families, to gain prestige and to contribute to their new community. The culture of fitting into a community, not trying to thwart authority, and preserving personal dignity, may help Nikkei Tapestry visitors to understand the evacuation experience from a new perspective.