Dislocated History: Tashme, 80 Years Later
Nestled between Johnson Peak, best known as the location of Hope Slide, and Mount Potter, is the former site of the largest Japanese Canadian internment camp – Tashme. Bound by steep and treacherous mountains and days-long treks to anywhere by foot. A single highway - The Crowsnest - cuts through the valley, built by the incarcerated labour. Today, this site is a sleepy leisure retreat ironically named the Sunshine Valley, BC, populated with DIY structures by those who willfully leave society. Visitors and residents are drawn here for the simulation of wilderness; solitude, privacy and vast terrain. What was once a place of forced seclusion is now a destination of choice. Gone are the 400 paper shacks which inadequately sheltered 2,500 internees through four frigid winters. Erased are the communal bath houses where once unfamiliar bodies came close to be cleansed and purified together. Cleared is the mess hall, where community was improvised over circumstantial meals. The built form of this place has been systematically dismantled and as time passes, the Sunshine Valley grows over Tashme. Although much of Tashme as it existed in the mid 1940’s has all but been erased, a permanent zeitgeist, a cultural layer, is saturated into the body of the site. Although fragments of this history have been transcribed, lived memories of these events are fleeting. Once the physical and tangible are lost how does this site remain understood in connection to this history?