I've been working on a Twitter project lately to try to bring some attention to the perpetuation of colonial narratives through public history. The project came about in response to a campaign launched by BC's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) to update the roadside Stops of Interest that dot BC's highways. When the first refurbished sign went up in my town, Kamloops, I was surprised and disappointed to see that only the paint had been changed. The tired, colonialist story remained: a vague celebration of wild west heritage that continued to ignore and erase Indigenous peoples' roles in history and the building of BC.
At a moment where reconciliation is in danger of becoming little more than a buzzword, I believe MoTI and other agents of settler colonialism have a real obligation to change the narrative in our public history. Indigenous people and places need to be written back into BC history. Knowing the truth about what happened between Indigenous people and settlers here is essential to BC's future, a critical step to righting the balance between us. Not only for the sake of Indigenous people (who already know they've been here the whole time), but for the rest of British Columbians, who've been raised on the settler-first diet of self-serving colonial stories. An understanding of who Indigenous people were at contact, how different waves of settlers interacted with them, and how we have all been affected since, is essential grounding for any reconciliation we can hope to achieve.
So I started to #rewriteBC. I offered alternative versions of the stories told on the Stops of Interest. My stories are based on settler histories and archaeological knowledge, all evidence readily available to anyone with the internet and a will. These are not Indigenous versions or perspectives (best left to Indigenous people). They are just other parts of the same history, details once recorded by non-Indigenous settlers, described by Indigenous witnesses, or inscribed in material culture and recovered through archaeology, details left out of the story we think we know.
You'll see what I mean in my rewrites below. Click on each double image to scroll through.
*updated with new signs May 2017*