Asian North American History
The significant events featured in this section acknowledge the long and rich history of Asian Canadians and their contributions to Canada. Canada’s cultural diversity strengthens the country socially, politically and economically in innumerable ways.
explorASIAN/Asian Heritage Month is an ideal occasion for all to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of various Asian cultures. Canadians are invited to take part in the festivities that commemorate the legacy of Asian Canadians and their many contributions which have helped Canada to become the multicultural and diverse nation it is today.
This project is a special community building initiative of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society. The intent is to broaden our understanding of Asian presence in North American history. It celebrates a legacy which began 450 years ago and continues today. The story is told through an abbreviated chronological timeline.
This ground-breaking project is the first of its kind to unify the history of the Asian settlement throughout the entire continent including Mexico, United States and Canada. The focus is initially on greater North America and gradually narrows towards Canada and ultimately British Columbia.
This project was researched and compiled by Jim Wong-Chu and Linda Tzang, with additional research and editing assistance from Charlie Cho.
We would like to thank Sylvia Yu, Trev Sue-A-Quon, Jean Barman, Ted Koppel, Lei Baker, Loni Ding, Gordon Kwok, Dora Nipp, Grace Thomson, Reiko Tagami, Iqbal H. Ahmed, Harmohanjit Singh Pandher, Baltej Singh Dhillon, Sarg Jagpal, Amanda Boursicot, Larry Y. Wong, Lisa R. Mar, J.Lee, and Jerry Pickard for their generous advice and support.
This project was researched and compiled by Jim Wong-Chu and Linda Tzang, with additional research and editing assistance from Charlie Cho.
All rights reserved by authors.
For information about permission to reproduce sections of this publication, please contact the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.
ASIAN NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY TIMELINE PROJECT
The Spanish, who took possession of the Philippines, begin their lucrative trade between China,
Hawaii, the Philippines and Acapulco. Chinese and Filipinos are sought after for their skills as
sailors and navigators on board Spanish galleons until 1815 when the last galleons docked.
The Spanish galleon, Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza, anchors off the coast of present day
Morro Bay, California, on Sunday, October 18, 1587. Filipinos (Luzones Indios) are among the
crewmembers. Filipinos are sent to scout the shore. On October 20, during a skirmish with
local Indians, one Filipino is killed. The galleon departs California on October 22, 1600.
Filipino seamen are on board the Spanish ship, San Agustin, when it is shipwrecked near
Point Reyes by the mouth of San Francisco Bay, California, on November 6, 1595.
The Chinos, a name commonly use to describe any people who came from across the Pacific
Ocean, are so numerous that the Spanish barbers in Mexico City petition the Municipal Council
to prevent Chino barbers from working in the capital. They are duly banished from the city.
But Spanish shopkeepers also face competition from Chino physicians, tailors, weavers,
silversmiths and ironsmiths, shipbuilders, carpenters, merchants and more. Many of these men
take Mexican wives but they and their descendents remained Chinos. The seaport of Acapulco
where the Manila Galleons landed, becomes known as the ciudad de los Chinos, the ‘City of Chinos’.
The trade route from Acapulco to the capital, Mexico City is called El Camino de la China –
‘the road of the Spanish Chinos’ who later became known as Mexican Chinos.
‘The Manilamen’, another reference for those who arrived in the New World from across the
Pacific, migrate north and settle in the bayou of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, thirty miles south
of New Orleans. These descendants of the sailors of the Spanish galleons become the oldest
living colony of Asians in North America.
Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, a 50-year old Mexican born, descendant of a “Manila Man,” and
his daughter, Juana Maria, age 11, are among the founding settlers of the village of El Pueblo de
Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula which grew to become the present-day city
of Los Angeles, California. He later became the ironsmith of the Santa Barbara Mission in California
where he lived until his death. He is buried in the Santa Barbara Mission Church.
On August 9, 1785, the ship Pallas, skippered by John O’Donnell, arrives in Baltimore, Maryland.
After unloading his cargo, O’Donnell set sail immediately stranding a crew of thirty-two East Indian
lascars (Asians) and three Chinese seamen named Ashing, Achun and Aceun. It is not known
whether these men were ever able to return to their ancestral lands. This is the first recorded
instance of Asians on the East Coast in the United States.
The Imperial Eagle, commanded by Captain Charles Barkley reaches Hawaii (Owyhee). On its
journey to the Pacific Northwest, a young Hawaiian woman named Winee becomes the personal
servant of Frances Barkley, the captain’s wife, and the first Hawaiian known to have visited the
Northwest Coast. Winee went on to China and was left at Macao. She later found passage back to
Hawaii courtesy of Captain John Meares. Unfortunately she fell ill during her journey and died
February 5, 1788. In August, a Hawaiian chief named Tianna (Ka-i’ana) journeyed on board Captain
John Meares’s ship, Nookta, along with other Asian sailors towards the coast of British Columbia.
Captain John Meares arrives along with Tianna (Ka-i’ana) and 50 to 70 Chinese artisans at Nootka
Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, to set up a fur trading post and establish British
sovereignty. The following year, 74 more Chinese workers are brought to the area. Using
hand-hewn wooden boards and handmade nails, they construct houses, a wharf and a small
ship’s dry dock, as well as a Chinese version of an English fort. They also build the first ocean-
going schooner, the forty-ton Northwest America. On its maiden voyage to the Queen Charlotte
Islands, it is commanded by a crew of English and Chinese seamen.
On June 5th, the Eleanora with 24 “Manila men” and the Fair American with 5 “Manilla men” sail
from China for the Pacific Northwest coast of America.
On June 27th, Spanish expedition ships, the Descubierta and the Atrevida , arrive at Yakutat Bay,
Alaska, then known as Port Mulgrave. Initially, there are four Filipinos among the original crew from
Cadiz, Spain. More Filipinos are conscripted in Acapulco to replace deserting crewmembers. Filipino
sailors were commonly found in Acapulco as a result of the Manila-Acapulco Spanish galleon trade.
The British ship Jenny sails to Nootka Sound with two Hawaiian women. They were returned home
in 1794 with Captain George Vancouver, who had the distinct impression that they had been taken
against their will.
Two Hawaiian men, Hopoo and Obookiah, join Captain John Brintnall of New Haven, Connecticut,
as cabin boy and sailor. Hopoo later served on an American ship in the War of 1812, and was
captured by the British in the West Indies. Both Obookiah and Hopoo later studied for the ministry
in New England. Obookiah translated the book of Genesis into Hawaiian and began to work on a
Hawaiian grammar, dictionary, and spelling book, but he fell ill with typhus and died.
Captain Johnathan Thorn, of the Pacific Fur Company, recruits 12 Hawaiian islanders on a 3 year
contract and finds them to be excellent sailors with superb swimming, diving and boat-handling
abilities. A year later he recruits 26 more Hawaiian islanders to work for the company.
King Kamehameha appoints a royal observer named Naukane to accompany and look after the
interests of these first Hawaiian contract labourers. He is dubbed John Coxe during the voyage and
retains that name throughout his life. He later becomes an employee of the Northwest Company
and accompanies surveyor and mapmaker, David Thomson by canoe and portage halfway across
the continent to the company’s supply depot and centre at Fort William on Lake Superior
(now Thunder Bay, Ontario).
Fort George is established. The post is staffed by approximately 50 men, more than half of whom
are Kanakas (Hawaiians). A year later, the Northwest Company establishes Fort Walla Walla in the
interior. Among its employees are 20 men of mixed Indian-white parentage, 38 Iroquois Indians
and 32 Kanakas.
Hopoo returns to Hawaii and helps establish the first Protestant mission in Honolulu. Decades later
he goes to California to join the Gold Rush.
The practice of recruiting Kanakas for work on the Northwest Coast is firmly established. When the
Hudson’s Bay Company eventually merges with the Northwest Company, the growth demands additional
Kanaka labourers. By 1842, there are over 310 Kanakas on the Hudson’s Bay Company’s payroll.
Naukane returns to the Northwest Coast fur trade and his identity as John Coxe, having returned to
Hawaii in 1814. He later retired near Fort Vancouver. The party to establish Fort Langley includes
3 clerks and 21 men, among them, two Kanakas, Como and Peeohpeeoh. After 13 or 14 years,
Como returns to Fort Vancouver where he works until his death in 1850. Peeopeeoh stayed in
Fort Langley for the rest of his life.
Chang and Eng Bunker, the Original Siamese Twins become one if P.T.Barnum’s greatest attractions
at the American Museum. They were born in Siam in May 11, 1811 to a Chinese father and a Chinese-
Malay mother. They were ‘discovered’ by a Scottish merchant and brought to America in 1829 when
they were 17-years old. They quickly become the toast of the European and North American medical
community. In October 1839, they take the oath of allegiance and become American citizens. They
adopt the surname Bunker and marry sisters, Adelaide and Sarah Ann Yates, settling permanently in
White Plains, North Carolina. Together, they have a total of 21 children. On January 17, 1874, the
elder twin comes down with bronchitis and dies. Because of their shared circulatory system, the other
twin dies shortly afterwards. They are buried in the graveyard of the Baptist Church at White Plains.
First recorded instance of Japanese shipwreck off the west coast of British Columbia.
Fort Vancouver becomes the base for the Kanaka community in the New World. They eventually
become the largest single ethnic group in the area. That year, a total of 207 Kanakas worked at the
forts, farms and coastal ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company from California to Alaska.
To counteract the excessive rowdiness of the Kanaka population, Hudson’s Bay Company’s Honolulu
agent recruits missionary William R. Kaulehelehe, who became better known as Kanaka William.
He arrives in June with his wife Mary S. Kaai and founds the Owhyhee Church.
15 Kanaka seamen are found serving in the Mexican navy. Hawaii’s Interior minister proclaims,
“There is no port in this ocean untrodden by Hawaiians…”
Yung Wing is one of three Chinese students to arrive in New York to attend school. . In 1854 his
graduation from Yale marks the first such event for Chinese in America. He becomes a naturalized
American citizen on October 30, 1852, while a sophomore. Yung Wing later earns a degree in Law
from Yale in 1876. He played an important role in building Sino-American relations.
Fort Rupert, near present day Port Hardy on Vancouver Island is built to protect newly discovered coal
deposits. Coal becomes important because of the number of steamships travelling up and down the
Northwest Coast. The initial work party consists of 35 French Canadians, Kanakas, and Englishmen.
Alarmed that an influx of Americans would result in a challenge to British sovereignty, James Douglas,
the soon-to-be governor of the colony of Vancouver Island establishes the Belle Vue sheep farm on
San Juan Island. In December, the farm’s first foreman, Charles J. Griffin, and a band of Hawaiian
shepherds arrived to care for a flock of 1,300 sheep. Despite this, in 1872 the disputed islands are
ceded to the United States. Most of the Kanakas leave San Juan Island and settle across the border
on the Gulf Islands, particularly Saltspring Island. Friday Harbour on San Juan Island is named in
memory of one of the Kanakas, Joe Poalie, better known as ‘Joe Friday’.
A gold rush draws thousands of prospectors to the Fraser Valley. Chinese miners arrive from
San Francisco, following the gold rush north. Mrs. Kwong Lee, the first Chinese woman lands in
Victoria, B.C. She is the wife of the owner of the Kwong Lee Company.
Won Alexander Cumyow becomes the first Chinese baby born in Canada, in Port Douglas, at the
head of Harrison Lake. Chinese soldiers serve in the “Avegno Tiger Zouaves” Company I,
14th Louisiana Infantry, in 1861. The Zouaves companies started as companies of the Governor’s
Guard but were combined to form a battalion and then put in a Regiment.
People of Asian origin from China, India, Singapore, Malaya and other Asian nations serve and die
on both the Union and Confederate sides during the American Civil War. Many serve under the
“Colour Troops” divisions of both armies.
Cheealthluc, the chief of the Songhees tribe on southern Vancouver Island, dies on
November 11, 1864. He is reported to have Hawaiian blood.
Saltspring Island is nicknamed “Little Hawaii”. The community is led by William Naukana, believed
by his descendants to be the son of John Coxe (Naukane), the leader of the first Kanakas on the
Columbia River. One of the most colourful Hawaiian traditions surviving in the Gulf Islands is the luau.
Nagano Manzo, of Yokohama abandons ship in New Westminster and takes up permanent residence
in Canada, as the first recognized Issei (first-generation Japanese person). He subsequently ran a gift
shop, Japanese food store and hotel in Victoria. Chinese-owned laundries are established in Toronto.
George Apnaut, a Hawaiian, is elected to one of the first Maple Ridge town councils.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built, its tracks ran right along the Fraser River,
and the little riverside community was obliterated. The last house was gone by 1912.
Over 17,000 Chinese workers are brought to Canada to spend the next four years working on the
Western section of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Considered the most dangerous and difficult section
to build, at least 600 Chinese die in the process of laying track through the Rocky Mountains, more
than 4 for every mile of track.
Chinese Canadian merchants establish the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Victoria.
It becomes the political centre for the Chinese community, and inspires similar associations in other
The American Korean community is founded by a small group of political and social reformers
who had been expelled from Korea following an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government.
Chinese labourers are stranded in Canada following the completion of the railway. Many migrate
south, settling in Victoria, New Westminster and later Vancouver. A number move east to cities
such as Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal in search of job opportunities and less discrimination.
Kuno Gihei, a Japanese visits Canada and returns to recruit fellow villagers to settle in the village
of Steveston at the mouth of the Fraser River. Until World War II, Steveston had the second
largest Japanese Canadian settlement in Canada.
Shishido Yo becomes the first Japanese woman to settle in Canada. She takes up residence on
Powell Street with her husband, Oya Washiji, a store proprietor.
Pyon Su is the first Korean to graduate from a U.S. college. He graduates from Maryland
Agricultural College (now the University of Maryland) in 1888. He is killed by a train shortly
after and is buried in Beltsville, Maryland.
Around 1869, a Kanaka family settled in Coal Harbour, at a large pebble beach (where the
Westin Bayshore Hotel now stands at the foot of Denman Street). They built a homestead
which came to be known as ‘Kanaka Ranch’. In 1895, a real estate developer tried to dispossess
the Kanakas. The case goes to the Supreme Court, which in 1899 sustains the Kanakas’ squatters’
rights. The first nissei (second generation Japanese person), Katsuji, is born to Yo and Washiji Oya.
The Calgary Smallpox riot began in June 1892 when a Chinese working at a laundry contracted
smallpox after a visit to Vancouver. Civic authorities burn the building and all its contents, and
its occupants are quarantined. Nine Chinese fall ill, and three die. The town’s citizens allege that
the disease was spread by the Chinese’ unhygienic living conditions. When the surviving four
Chinese are released on Aug 2, a mob of over 300 men smash the doors and windows of all the
Chinese laundries, ransack the Chinese district, destroying and looting property, and assaulting
Chinese residents. The local police do not act until the riot is effectively over. The Chinese
community is badly shaken by the violence and seeks refuge at the Mounted Police barracks
or at the homes of clergymen. The North West Mounted Police patrol the town for the next
3 weeks to protect Chinese Calgarians against further attacks.
Philip Jaisohn becomes the first Korean to become an American citizen and the first to receive
an American medical degree. Four years later returns to Korea to establish the first Korean
newspaper and becomes one of the leaders in the fight to keep Korea independent of China,
and later Japan. His work in medical research and for Korean independence gains him respect
in both his homeland and the United States.
Chinese Board of Trade is formed in Vancouver.
One of Halifax’s first Chinese-owned laundries opens. After paying for her own passage from
China to Canada, 15 year old Mary Bong arrives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband Ah Bong to
operate the Sang Wo Bakery and Restaurant. She becomes the first Chinese woman in Alaska.
After the death of Ah Bong in 1902, she marries Fred Johnson, of Swedish and Finnish descent,
and together they operate a gold mine, run a dairy and try their hand at trapping and prospecting.
In 1917, when the first salmon cannery is established, Mary becomes the first woman troller
in the area. She owned an 18-foot open boat and trolled alone. At the age of 70 Mary is still working,
as the official matron of the federal jail in Sitka. When the U.S. abolishes the Chinese Exclusion Act in
1943, Mary becomes an American citizen. She died in 1958 and is simply remembered as “China Mary”.
Sun Yat Sen, known as the Father of the Chinese Republic, enters North America in July, after a
dramatic rescue from the Chinese embassy in London. He lands in Montreal, and travels across
Canada by train. After spending ten days in Victoria, he leaves for Japan. He returns to North
America in February 1910, at which time he travels to San Francisco and Hawaii to gather
contributions following the failure of the new Army Revolt in Canton. His third and final trip is the
most successful. Supported by the Chi Kung Tong (The Chinese Freemasons), he is well received
and spends his time promoting the republican cause in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Afterwards, he
heads a fundraising tour to all the Chinese communities in B.C. before embarking on a U.S. tour.
Ahn Chang-ho. a Korean intellectual, arrives in San Francisco. In 1903, he establishes the
Chinmok-hoe (Friendship Society), the first Korean organization in the U.S. Ten years later,
he founds the Hung Sa Dang, or Young Koreans Academy, many members of which were active
in the Korean National Association. Ahn goes on to become one of the leaders of the Korean
independence movement, serving as Secretary of the Interior and later as Secretary of Labor in
the provisional government-in-exile set up by expatriate Korean leaders in Shanghai (China)
in 1919. He is arrested by the Japanese in 1935 and dies shortly afterwards.
Filipino cannery workers, calling themselves “Alaskeros,” begin to live permanently in Alaska.
Takuji Yamashita is among just 10 graduates of the class of 1902 of the University of Washington
Law School. At the age of 27, he argues before the State Supreme Court that his exclusion from
the bar is unworthy of anation “founded on the fundamental principles of freedom and equality.”
Nevertheless, his case was denied. Instead, Yamashita becomes a successful strawberry farmer
and oyster cultivator only to lose everything when he and his family are interned during World War II.
Impoverished, he works as a housekeeper in Seattle and dies in obscurity in 1959, at 84, at the home
of his grandchildren in Japan. Still hanging proudly on the wall was his law degree.
The first Korean labourers arrive in Hawaii aboard the SS Gaelic. Prior to this, the Korean community
in the U.S. consisted entirely of exiled intellectuals.
Work begins to lay underwater communication cables between Juneau and other southeast
Alaskan communities, and Seattle, Washington. The crew of the cableship Burnside consists
of about 80 Filipinos. The project is completed a year later.
Five thousand Indian men (almost all Sikhs) begin to arrive in BC, most find work in lumber mills.
Owen Forrester Browne, whose parental grandfather was Tahitian, becomes the captain of one of B.C.’s
most famous paddlewheelers, the Charlotte. He later takes command of the new $53,000 ship the B.X.,
built by the B.C. Express Company. After the B.X. sank in 1919, he skippers the Hudson’s Bay Company
boat Northland Echo, which trades on the Athabaska River in Alberta. He eventually retires to
New Westminster where he dies in 1948.
The Khalsa Diwan Society is established in Vancouver. The organization becomes the voice for the
entire Indian community and a focus for religious, social and political activity.
The Korean Evangelical Society is organized in San Francisco. Many Koreans had become Christians
even before leaving their homeland. After their arrival in the United States, they work hard to
convert other Koreans to Christianity. Koreans establish the Mutual Assistance Society in San Francisco,
which soon began publishing the first Korean-language newspaper.
September 9, a protest rally staged by Vancouver’s Asiatic Exclusion League at Vancouver’s old city hall
at Main and Hastings turns into a riot through Chinatown and Japantown. The riot was immediately
followed by a general strike of Vancouver’s Asian workers. The city’s timber industry, hotels, and private
homes suffer from the withdrawal of so many of its workers. W.L. Mackenzie King, then Deputy Minister
of Labour, is appointed to head a Royal Commission to assess the damages claimed by Chinese and
Japanese merchants. The Chinese are awarded $3,000 in property damage and over $20,000 for
business losses, $9,000 is awarded to the Japanese.
A violent mob of Euro-Americans drives 400 Sikh workers out of Bellingham.
The Canadian government passes laws to stop immigration from India. The Canadian government
tries to remove Sikh Canadians by offering them land in British Honduras. The Sikhs refuse.
The Khalsa Diwan Society builds Canada’s first gurdwara (temple) at 1866 West 2nd Avenue
in Vancouver’s west end. This serves as a gathering place for Indians of all faiths.
Professor Teja Singh establishes the Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company.
This provides an economic foundation for the Sikh community in Canada.
The United States Department of Agriculture awards its highest honor, the Wilder Medal to Lue Gim Gong.
His creation, the hybrid Lue Gim Gong orange made it possible to establish the Florida and California citrus
industry. The orange, a native fruit of China was brought to Europe by the Portuguese and eventually found
its way to the Americas but had difficulty growing in the New World. In Florida, Lue Gim Gong successfully
mated the hardy Mediterranean variety with Chinese oranges to produce a variety suitable for the soil and
climate of North America. While Lue Gim Gong oranges have become a staple in North America, the fruit no
longer bears his name. Lue Gim Gong lived in obscurity and poverty, and died alone. His grave is untended.
When whites drove 11 Korean apricot workers out of Hemet, California, the Japanese Consul General offers
to assist the workers. Korean association leaders, however, are indignant and refuse Japanese assistance.
The first Sikh baby born in Canada, Hardial Singh Atwal, is delivered in Vancouver.
Hardial is the son of Balwant Singh Atwal, the first priest of the 2nd Avenue gurdwara.
Duke Kahanamoku becomes the 1st Asian Pacific Olympic hero when he wins a gold medal
and sets a world record in the 100-meter free-style, and wins a silver medal as a member of
the 200-meter relay in Stockholm. He wins his second and third gold medals in 1920 during
the Antwerp Olympics, again breaking his world record in the 100-meter free-style and setting
a world record on the free-style relay team. During the 1924 Paris Olympics, he wins a silver medal
for the 100-meter free-style, and is awarded a bronze medal as an alternate on the water polo team
at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. After his Olympic career, Duke went on to become a longboard
surfing legend in Hawaii. Museums and memorials in Australia, California, Florida, New York and
Hawaii pay tribute to his worldwide influence on surfing.
Three hundred seventy-six Indian immigrants arrive in Vancouver harbour on the steamer Komagata Maru.
The Canadian government refuses to allow the Indians to disembark and after a two-month standoff, the
naval cruiser HMCS Rainbow escorts the vessel out of Canadian waters.
The Asashi Baseball League is formed in Vancouver, BC. From their home grounds in Oppenheimer Park
on Powell street, they compete at all levels with teams from throughout the city and toured Japan until 1941.
The silent film The Typhoon, starring Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa is released. Based on a play
written by the actor, it signals the start of an illustrious film career. During the silent era Hayakawa
became a matinee idol and went on to form his own very successful production companies. As an actor
he was praised by his peers but roles were limited due to his ethnicity. Racism led him to leave the U.S.
but he continued to act and produce in Japan and Europe. Hayakawa returned to the U.S. in the late 1940s
to resume his movie career, this time as a character actor, mostly in war films about World War II.
His greatest achievement was his memorable portrayal of the cruel commandant of a POW camp,
in David Lean’s The Bridge On the River Kwai for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
Isaac H. Hoahing, an immigrant of Chinese descent rom Guyana (formerly called British Guiana) enlists
in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fights in the First World War. Documentation from the time is
incomplete and Hoahing is one of the few Chinese soldiers for whom there is a record. It is estimated
that up to 300 Chinese Canadians volunteered to serve in World War I.
WWI after being rejected for military service in British Columbia, approximately 200 Japanese volunteers
travel to Alberta to join Canadian battalions of the British army and are shipped to Europe. 54 are killed
and 92 wounded.
Uchida Chitose is the first Japanese Canadian to graduate from a Canadian University.
She would later became a school teacher.
The Korean independence movement and the news of its brutal suppression by the Japanese energizes
Korean American churches and study groups to redouble aid. The School of Aviation is founded in
Willows, California, when Kim Chong-nim, a successful Korean American farmer known as the “Rice King,”
donates three airplanes. Pilots are trained there to fight against the Japanese Empire in the Korean
struggle for independence.
Japanese fishermen control nearly half of the fishing licenses in Canada. The Department of Fisheries
subsequently reduces the number of licenses issued to “other than white residents of British subjects and
Canadian Indians”. By 1925, close to 1,000 licenses are stripped from Japanese Canadians.
After reclaiming 29,000 acres of uncultivated land, George Shima, the Japanese “Potato King,”
controls 80% of California’s potato market.
The School Board of Victoria creates a separate school for all Chinese students following complaints
of overcrowding. Chinese parents boycott the special school until the School Board allows the
Chinese students to return to the public school system.
Anna May Wong becomes the first Asian North American film star when she stars in the movie,
Toll of the Sea. The movie should have made her a lead actor but racism relegated Anna May Wong
to supporting roles for most of her career. Wong cemented her place in film history when she played
the role of “Hui Fei,” a prostitute in Shanghai Express (Paramount, 1932). Following this success, she
lobbied heavily for the part “O-Lan”, in M-G-M’s production of The Good Earth (1937). It was one of
the few positive, Asian lead female characters and Wong was shattered when Austrian born actress
Luise Rainer was given the part. Wong was offered a supporting role as an unfaithful and deceitful wife –
which she flatly refused. She made a handful of films in the 1940s but turned to television in the ’50s.
In addition to guest starring on other programs, Anna May Wong actually had her own television show,
a short-lived crime drama called The Gallery of Mme. Lui-Tsong. Her last film project was the 1961
movie Flower Drum Song, where she was cast to play “Auntie”. Unfortunately, she was too ill to
complete the film and died that same year at the age of 56. With a forty-year career that began in the
silent era, Anna May Wong, nee Wong Liu Tsong, a name which translates to “Frosted Willows,” and
she was born, appropriately enough, on Flower Street in Los Angeles’ Chinatown on 3 January 1905,
above her father’s laundry.
Filipino American boxer Francisco Guilledo becomes the World Flyweight Champion.
Filipino American World Boxing Champion, Pancho Villa dies at the age of 24 from blood poisoning
after winning 103 victories out of 108 fights.
Fazal Muhammud Khan, a rice farmer in Butte County, California, contributes to the growth and
development of the rice industry. California subsequently becomes one of the rice farming centers
in the country.
Anti-Filipino riot erupts in Watsonville, California and in Kent, Washington.
A delegation from the Japanese Canadian Citizen’s League goes to Ottawa to plead for the right to vote.
They are unsuccessful.
The Vancouver Jubilee celebrates the city’s 50th Anniversary. The Chinese community erects a
Chinese Village as part of the celebrations. A replica, 7-storey pagoda and a traditional Chinese gate
are imported from China for the occasion. The Chinese Village is one of the Jubilee’s most popular
attractions and for most non-Chinese it is their first introduction to the Chinese community in their city.
Ahn Ik-t’ae, a Korean composer living in Philadelphia, completes his composition of the
Korean national anthem.
Jack Shirai, a New York restaurant worker, is killed fighting the fascists in Spain.
He was the only Japanese American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Acting against orders, Dr. Feng Shan Ho, Consul General of the Chinese Nationalist government in Vienna
(1938-1940) helps thousands of Jews escape the Nazis by issuing them visas to Shanghai. As an open port,
Shanghai had already become a haven for Jewish refugees from Russia. Following the influx of European
Jews fleeing the Nazis, there were close to 30,000 Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II. In one
particularly dramatic incident, an unarmed Dr. Ho confronted Gestapo officers who had arrested the male
members of a Jewish family that he had just delivered visas to. Dr. Ho forced the officers to release the
men and then immediately escorted the family to the boat for Shanghai. Dr. Ho retired from diplomatic
service in 1973 and retired to San Francisco where he was a founding member of the Chinese Lutheran
Church. Dr. Ho passed away in 1997 at the age of 96. On July 7, 2000, Dr. Feng Shan Ho was recognized
as one of the “Righteous Among Nations” the highest award bestowed by the government of Israel,
a ceremony to commemorate the event was conducted at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Chinese Canadians volunteer for military service in World War II.
The Canadian government refuses to consider them for active combat service.
Chinese Canadians are classified as ‘allied aliens’ and subject to investigation.
Despite citizenship, Japanese Canadians are excluded from military service.
All Japanese Canadians are required to report and register with the Register of Enemy Aliens.
In January, the Canadian government begins to remove Japanese men from coastal areas
as a ‘protective’ measure. During April and May, Japanese Canadian women and children
begin arriving at ‘ghost town’ detention camps (Greenwood, Kaslo, New Denver, Slocan,
Sandon and Tashme) in the British Columbia interior.
A small number of Chinese Canadian volunteers with special skills were allowed into active service.
Most of these men served as pilots and in Special Operations where their language skills allowed them
to work behind enemy lines in Asia. Chinese Canadians were not generally called into the draft until 1944.
Sub-Lieutenant William K. L. Lore becomes the first Chinese Canadian in the Royal Canadian Navy
and the first officer of Chinese descent in all the navies of the British Commonwealth. Because of his
ability to speak Cantonese, S/Lt. Lore becomes one of the first British officers to land in Hong Kong at
the end of the war. He not only witness the official hand over of the colony from the surrendering Japanese,
he is also among the first to liberate the POW’s held by the Japanese at the Sham Shui Po prison camp.
150 Japanese Canadians volunteer for service with the Canadian Army in the Far East.
At the same time, a campaign is begun to intimidate Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia
into moving to Eastern Canada or be deported to Japan.
Thomas K. Shoyama was appointed economic advisor to Saskatchewan’s pioneer CCF government
by Tommy Douglas, future leader of the federal New Democratic Party.
William (Bill) Gun Chong becomes the only Chinese Canadian to be awarded the British Empire Medal,
the highest military honour given by the British government to non-British citizens.
During the Japanese occupation, the Allies recruited many bilingual Asians to become agents as part
of their intelligence network operating behind enemy lines. During World War II, Bill Chong was known
as ‘Agent 50′. Working behind enemy lines, Bill Chong was captured by the Japanese on three occasions
and escaped each time.
During the 1947-48 season, Larry (‘King’) Kwong is the first Chinese Canadian to play in the NHL as a
member of the New York Rangers Hockey Club. Also known as the ‘China Clipper’ during an illustrious
juniors and seniors hockey career in B.C., Kwong went on to become Assistant Captain of the Valleyfield
Braves in the Quebec Senior Hockey League where he led the team to a Canadian Senior Championship
and received the Byng of Vimy award for sportsmanship. Kwong later accepted an offer to play hockey
in England and coach in Lausanne, Switzerland. He would spend the next 15 years in Europe as a hockey
and tennis coach. In 1972, Kwong returned to Canada and is now the President of Food Vale in Calgary.
Jennie Wong, was the first Chinese Canadian woman disc jockey in Vancouver. Having won a
contest judged by Freddie Robbins (a New York City disc jockey), Claude Thornhill (an orchestra leader)
and Frank Sinatra, she hosted a 1/2 hour Saturday afternoon program called Jennie’s Juke Joint on CKMO.
Years later, she worked for CBC Edmonton on the morning show. Wong also had her own business
doing theatrical and television make-up for 25 years in Edmonton
At the London Olympics, Filipino American Vicki Manolo Draves becomes the first woman in
Olympic history to win the Gold Medal in high (platform) and low (springboard) diving.
Korean American, Major Sammy Lee, won the Gold Medal in men’s high diving, and
Japanese American Harold Sakata, a native Hawaiian, won the Silver Medal in weightlifting.
Won Alexander Cumyow, who had voted provincially as a young man before the franchise was
taken away from the Chinese, casts his ballot in a BC provincial election marking him as the only
person to exercise the franchise between the exclusion periods.
Japanese Canadians are free to move anywhere in Canada. This is the last of the restrictions
originally imposed on Japanese Canadians during World War II.
Naranjan Grewall, Canada’s first Sikh city councilor, earns a seat in Mission. In 1954 he would
again make history when he is elected Mayor of Mission. Grewall owned and operated 6 sawmill
operations, and was a vocal critic of cutting practices and forest management systems in his day.
Referring to holders of forest management licenses as ‘Timber Maharajahs’, he warned that within
10 years 3 or 4 giant corporations would effectively control the industry in B.C.
At the Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, Korean American Sammy Lee becomes the first Olympic
diver to win back-to-back gold medals. His second Gold Medal for men’s high diving came on his 32nd birthday.
Lee went on to coach several diving greats, such as Bob Webster and Greg Louganis. During these games,
Japanese American Tommy Kono won the Gold in weightlifing, while Ford Konno and Yoshinbu Oyakawa
became the first Japanese Americans to win Gold Medals in swimming.
Dahlip Singh Saund becomes the first Asian Indian American elected to the U.S. Congress.
Margaret Jean Gee becomes the first Chinese Canadian woman lawyer admitted to the bar in Canada.
She enrolled as a law student at the University of British Columbia in 1950, only three years after the
B.C. Law Society lifted its restriction on bar membership to only those who were eligible to vote.
She also was the first Chinese Canadian woman Pilot Officer (Reserves) in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Harban Singh (Herb) Doman establishes Doman Industries Ltd. It becomes one of Canada’s largest
Normie Kwong was selected as Canada’s “Athlete of the Year” in 1955. Nicknamed ” the China Clipper”,
he spent 14 seasons with football teams in Calgary and Edmonton. Kwong was in seven Grey Cup finals,
including four winners, with Calgary in 1948, Edmonton in 1954, 1955 and 1956. He was twice selected
as the Most Outstanding Canadian, being awarded the $500 Schenley bonus in 1955 and 1956. He was
awarded the Eddie James Memorial Trophy as WFC’s leading rusher three times and was a five-time All-Star.
Kwong scored a career 83 touchdowns and gained 9,022 yards rushing, averaging 5.2 yards per carry
(the third highest in league history). He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Douglas Jung, representing Vancouver Centre, becomes the first Chinese Canadian Member of Parliament.
Shortly after, he was appointed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to be Canada’s representative at the
Chinese Americans, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung Dao Lee win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
World-renowned conductor Zubin Mehta assumes the post of Music Director of the Montreal Symphony
Orchestra. Already the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta becomes the
first conductor to head two major North American orchestras at the same time. Mehta stayed with the
Montréal Symphony Orchestra until 1967 and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra until 1978,
when he left to become Music Director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He left the New York
Philharmonic in 1991. In 1967 the Indian government awarded him its highest cultural honor,
Padma Bhushan (Order of the Lotus), and in 1976 the Italian government awarded him the honorary
title of Commendatore.
Wayson Choy’s first published work is selected for The Best American Short Stories.
American geneticist Har Gobind Khorana is a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his
studies in genetics. Khorana held posts at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland,
the University of Cambridge, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 1952 (working with
Dr. Gordon Shrum), and the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. In 1960 Khorana joined the
Enzyme Institute at the University of Wisconsin, eventually becoming its Co-Director.
Promod Puri launches the Indo-Canadian Link newspaper in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s Chinese Cultural Centre is established to promote and preserve Chinese language
and culture in Canada.
Bruce Lee died, his only English language movie, Enter the Dragon is released posthumously and
makes him an international super-star. A Chinese American martial artist, Lee was born in
San Francisco, Ca. Lee was a child actor in Hong Kong and tried to establish a performing career
in the United States. After appearing as the side-kick Kato in the Green Hornet series, Lee returned
to Hong Kong after being turned down for the starring role in the series Kung-Fu in favour of a
Caucasian actor with no experience in martial arts. Lee is also remembered as the creator of the
martial arts philosophy, jeet kune do.
From 1975 to 1980 Alannah Ong worked for the Canadian Central Band as a pianist for the
Governor-General of Canada. She was the first woman (and first Chinese Canadian) musician
for the Canadian Armed Forces. The government had to design a special uniform for her.
Japanese Canadians commemorate the centennial of the first Japanese person to immigrate to Canada,
Manzo Nagano. The centennial celebrations are closely followed by the organization of informal groups
to discuss seeking redress. In Vancouver, the Japanese Canadian community celebrates the centennial
with the Powell Street Festival.
A restaurant called Kanaka Place opens on Saltspring Island. Even today there are quite a few Kanaka
descendants remaining on the island but the only conspicuous signs of Kanaka heritage are in street
names such as Roland Road and Kanaka Road, and the Kanaka Restaurant in Ganges.
Ellison Onizuka, a Japanese American aerospace engineer, becomes an astronaut candidate.
He was assigned to film Halley’s comet with a handheld camera on the fatal space shuttle
Challenger mission in 1986.
CTV airs a W5 report called “Campus Giveaway,” portraying Chinese Canadian citizens and immigrants
as foreigners who took university seats away from European Canadians. The ensuing national protest
leads to the creation of the Chinese Canadian National Council.
The Nature of Things, a CBC science television series goes on the air with its host Dr. David Suzuki,
a Japanese Canadian scientist and environmental activist. An internationally respected geneticist,
Dr. Suzuki has received numerous awards for his work, including a UNESCO prize for science,
a United Nations Environment Program medal and the Order of Canada. In 1990, he established
the David Suzuki Foundation to “find and communicate ways in which we can achieve a balance
between social, economic, and ecological needs.”
Obasan, by Joy Kogawa is published. A fictional account of the internment told from the perspective
of a young girl, the novel significantly raises awareness of the Japanese Canadian internment experience.
For Obasan, Kogawa wins the First Novel Award (Books in Canada) and the Book of the Year
(Canadian Author’s Association).
Indian American physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, becomes the Nobel Laureate in Physics
for his theoretical studies of the physical processes related to the structure and evolution of the stars.
On July 23, 1999, NASA’s Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility was renamed the Chandra X-ray
Observatory in his honor and launched by the space shuttle, Columbia.
Art Miki becomes President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians and begins a
concerted campaign for redress. A brief entitled, Democracy Betrayed: the Case for Redress,
is presented to the government.
Mr. Justice Wallace (Wally) Oppal, an Indo-Canadian, is appointed to the BC Supreme Court.
Monmohan (Moe) Sihota becomes the first Indo-Canadian Member of the Legislative Assembly.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces the Canadian government’s formal apology for the wrongful
incarceration, seizure of property and the disenfranchisement of thousands of Japanese Canadians.
Philanthropist David C. Lam becomes the first Chinese Canadian to be appointed the
Lieutenant Governor of a Canadian province.
Jan Wong begins her six-year stint as the Globe and Mail’s China correspondent.
Chinese American Michael Chang wins the French Open at the age of 17. He is the youngest man
to ever win the French Open, a Grand Slam and the youngest to be ranked among the top 5
professional tennis players in the world.
Evelyn Lau becomes the youngest Canadian to be nominated for a Governor General’s Award
for Poetry, at age 21
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police change regulations to allow Sikh constables to wear elements
of their religious attire as part of their offical uniform. Constable Baltej Singh Bhillon is the first
RCMP officer to wear a turban and other Sikh symbols.
Kristi Yamaguchi, a Japanese American, wins the Gold Medal for Figure Skating
at the Albertville Olympics.
Harbance (Herb) Dhaliwal from Vancouver, BC and Gurbax Singh Malhi from Malton, Ontario
are the first Indo-Canadians elected to Parliament. Mahli is the first turbaned Sikh to do so.
Herb Dhaliwal later becomes the first Indo-Canadian to assume a Cabinet post when he is appointed
Minister of National Revenue in 1997. Since 1999, Dhaliwal has been the Minister of Fish and Oceans.
After playing college hockey at the University of Maine, Paul Kariya was drafted 4th overall in the
first round of the National Hockey League draft by the Anahiem Mighty Ducks. Kariya was born in
Vancouver, British Columbia on October 16, 1974 to a Japanese-Canadian father and a caucasian mother.
Kariya has firmly established himself as one of the most skillful athletes of the National Hockey League,
having won Hockey East Player of the Year (1993), Hockey East Rookie of the Year (1993),
Hobey Baker Memorial Award (1993), a silver medal with the Canadian Olympic team (1994),
and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1997). He led the NHL with 429 shots during the 2000 season,
shooting 86 more times than anybody else in the league. In 1999, the Vancouver Canucks draft his
younger brother Steve Kariya.
Margaret Cho, of Korean descent, becomes the first Asian American with her own sitcom,
All American Girl. The show aired for two seasons on ABC.
Over 300 Kanaka descendants gather on Saltspring Island for a modern-day luau during which
a bronze plaque (since installed at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church) giving a brief history of
the Kanakas on Saltspring and the Gulf Islands was dedicated.
Mina Shum’s film, Double Happiness, starring Korean Canadian Sandra Oh,
wins the Best First Film prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Rohinton Mistry: wins the Giller Prize (Canada’s richest literary award) for his novel A Fine Balance.
His first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), won the Governor General’s Award and was shortlisted
for the prestigious Booker Prize.
Tiger Woods becomes the youngest man ever to win the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.
Born on December 30, 1975 in Cypress, CA to parents Earl Woods (half black, one-quarter American Indian,
and one-quarter Chinese) and Kultida Woods (half Thai, one- quarter Chinese, and one-quarter white),
Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods has become one of golf’s most accomplished players. After winning numerous titles
as a junior and amateur golfer, Tiger turned pro in August 1996. In 2001, Tiger Woods became the only
golfer to ever to have won all the major golfing titles (the PGA Championship, the British Open,
the U.S. Open and the Masters) in one tournament year.
Vivienne Poy, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Jean Chretiene.
She is the first Chinese Canadian to serve in this capacity.
Jenny Wai Ching Kwan becomes the first Chinese Canadian appointed to the BC Cabinet when she becomes
Minister of Municipal Affairs. Since then she has served as Minister of Women’s Equality and is currently
Minister of Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers. Before being elected to provincial office,
Kwan was the youngest person ever to be elected to Vancouver City Council.
Sarah Chang, an eight-year-old violinist, plays as a surprise guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic
at the invitation of conductor Zubin Mehta. Chang, the daughter of Korean immigrants who came to the
United States in 1979, began performing at the age of five, and at age six began taking lessons at the
prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York City.
Journalist and broadcaster Adrienne Clarkson, becomes the first Chinese Canadian Governor-General.
Ujjal Dosanjh, the first Indo-Canadian to serve as provincial Attorney General, is sworn in as B.C.’s 33rd Premier.
The National Nikkei Heritage Centre and the Japanese Canadian National Museum officially open their doors
in their new facility in Nikkei Place, Burnaby, BC.
Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, MP from Winnipeg, becomes the first Filipino Canadian to hold a federal cabinet post
when he is appointed Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific region.
Emmanuel Sandhu becomes the first Indo-Canadian to win a Canadian Figure Skating Championship.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a Chinese language film directed and written by Taiwanese American Director
Ang Lee is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Foreign Film.
The movie becomes the first project from Taiwan to win an Oscar when it is awarded Best Foreign Language Film,
Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Original Score. Lee had previously received Academy Award
and Golden Globe nominations for his first film, The Wedding Banquet.