Commemorative ceremony for avalanche victims at Mountain View Cemetery August 12
On November 7, 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, as the Last Spike was driven home in Craigellachie, not far from Revelstoke, British Columbia. In the process of building and maintaining this ribbon of steel that created a corridor across Canada, the lives of many people from different nations were lost.
In early March of 1910, a severe storm lasting some ten days lashed the western areas of North America, resulting in a number of massive avalanches. On March 1 of that year, 96 people lost their lives at Stevens Pass in Washington, Northeast of Seattle. Just three days later, on March 4, Canada’s worst-ever avalanche occurred at Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains. Fifty-eight railway workers were killed as they dug out the debris of an earlier avalanche that had come down Mount Cheops in the late afternoon. Around 11:30pm, as the crew was almost finished digging a snow trench, another avalanche came down from Avalanche Mountain and buried them some nine meters deep in the trench.
According to articles appearing in the Japanese-language newspaper Tairiku Nippou (????), published at the time in Vancouver, both Japanese and Caucasian workers were on the site. Tragically, 32 Japanese and 26 Caucasians were taken by the avalanche. The 32 Japanese, all between 19 and 40 years old, came from prefectures across Japan: Miyagi, Nagano, Shizuoka, Fukui, Shiga, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka and Kagoshima.
After more than a year and a half researching the incident, the graves of the 32 Japanese victims were discovered at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, as well as 11 families of the victims living in Japan. During the research process, some wonderful pictures of the times and the victims were also discovered, thanks to the families in Japan. Also uncovered were some previously-unknown details of Japanese involvement in the Canadian Pacific Railway.
This research was undertaken with great support from Revelstoke Museum and Archive in Revelstoke; the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre; Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver; the University of British Columbia (UBC) Rare and Special Book Library in Vancouver; Tuneharu Gonnami of the Asian Library, UBC; Professor Norifumi Kawahara, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto; Research Center for Natural Hazards & Disaster Recovery Niigata University in Niigata; the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affair archives in Tokyo, and several local Japanese newspapers,
On March 4, 2010, a winter commemorative event marking the 100th anniversary of the avalanche was held at 7pm in downtown Revelstoke. About 800 locals attended the ceremony, where 11,000 origami cranes folded by people in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, the USA and Japan were hung up on the main street of Revelstoke (strings of the folded paper cranes are a traditional memorial display in Japan).
This summer, a series of celebrations of the anniversary will be held; one of the highlights will be the participation of four of the Japanese families, who will take part in the commemorative ceremonies at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver on August 12, and at Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park and Revelstoke on August 15, 2010.
Everyone is most welcome to join in this remembrance of these somewhat unexpected Japanese builders of the Canadian railways, and unfortunate victims of the country’s worst avalanche disaster. The August 12 ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery will be held at 10am, and is made possible by the kind support of the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, Mountain View Cemetery, Buddhist Temples of Canada in Vancouver. The Rogers Pass event on the 15th will be held at 2pm, with kind support from Parks Canada, 1910 Rogers Pass Snow Slide Commemoration Committee, Revelstoke Railway Museum, Revelstoke Museum & Archives, Canadian Pacific.
Please contact Tomoaki Fujimura (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have more information and pictures about 1910 Rogers Pass Avalanche, Japanese involvement of Canadian Pacific Railway, Shokichi AKATSUKA photos in the early 1900’s and/or Japanese graduates from Britannia Secondary School.
Tomoaki Fujimura moved from Japan to the Interior of BC in 1995 at age of 18. After living in Fernie for seven years he moved Revelstoke in 2007 and now makes it his home. Over the past ten years, he has been learning how to forecast avalanches in the Interior mountains and is now a professional member of Canadian Avalanche Association. In the winter of 2009 he was invited to become a member of the 1910 Rogers Pass Snow Slide Commemoration committee and to do research on Japanese victims and stories. www.canadianalps.com.
On December 16, 2010, Tomoaki Fujimura will give a talk on the 1910 Rogers Pass avalanche and Japanese involvment at the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre.