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Ashcroft Harmony Bell Mosaic​

Come to Ashcroft to ring the Harmony Bell for World Peace.

photo by Wendy Coomber

Harmony Bell Project 

"We Invite You to Come to Ashcroft to Ring the Harmony Bell for World Peace"

2016-18 Ashcroft

The Harmony Bell Project was a work more than two years in the making.  The mission for this project was to explore our community of Ashcroft and trace back the origins of each culture that became established here, how they came to be here, what they did when they got here, how their circumstances shaped their roles in our village and how their family lives look now more than 100 years hence.

This project was the brainchild of Marina Papais who has done similar projects in other communities "Our Salmon, Our Children, One Earth" such as in West Vancouver, Vancouver Proper, and the Tri-Cities in B.C.  She wanted to explore the families of existing community members to see the genesis of their lives here and how their circumstances have shaped their lives to this day.  In this exploration Marina discovered four main cultures who emerged from the time of the settlers: European Overlanders, First Nations who originated in this area, and Chinese and Japanese who came to build the railway for the European settlers, essentially. 

In identifying why people came, it seems that the First Nations were more or less not regarded in the decisions of the European settlers and the Chinese and Japanese were here in order to facilitate the Europeans in their desire to expand their new domain.  Already one easily cansee the hierarchy and it is interesting from this point of view to see where we have all come in this time of Truth and Reconciliation.

In asking the families of the four cultural groups to submit family pictures it became a study of humble beginnings, integration, love and acceptance of differences.  Original cultures seem to have lessened over the years, leaving people on more or less equal footings in our present state.  True, there are residuals of resentments and angers and in some cases these resentments run deeper than in others.  But what is evident from the onset is the intermarriages that took place.  One would be hard-pressed to find families that have not integrated between the races.  A natural Blending has taken place so that it is not uncommon here to have a blending of the races in most families that have been here over the past century or less.

The Harmony Project elucidates our similarities far more than it does our differences.

Marina spend more than two years compiling her drawings of the families she studied.  The pictures were brought in by so many family members who believed in the project.  Many pictures, especially the ones from the more distant past were provided by Kathy Paulos who curates our wonderful Ashcroft Museum, which is a wonderful source of history and information.  The Bittersweet Oasis is a history of the Ashcroft area 1885-2002 and is a good source of pictures and information.

Great Thanks to many people who made this project possible.  Although Marina and Daniel gave of all their time voluntarily, many others helped in many ways.  Thank you to Pache Denis and Bruce Walker and Josh Granito especially, but to so many others for helping make the structure for the Harmony Bell Project.  Thank you to the City of Ashcroft for donating a space in Heritage Park and also for creating the concrete and block patio on which the structure was engineered.  Thank you to the Village Workers for all their consideration and help.  Thank you to Michelle Allen for facilitating the building of the structure.

Thank you to all the families in Ashcroft that donated pictures and stories.  Without you this project would not have been possible. Thank you to Kathy Paulos for all your help and expertise on the history of our town.​

Thank you to Pathways to Gold Society for supplying the funding for the materials for the Harmony Bell Project and for believing in this community to deliver what we intended from the beginning.

Harmony Bell Project

The East Side of the Harmony Bell Project is a study of the families from our First Nations People.  The pictures were provided by community members and students who worked with us on the River Runs Through piece which we created for the Desert Sands School. During the process of accumulating pictures, many stories came out about life for the First Nations which colour our cultural landscape immeasurably.  The Eagle, Coyote and Salmon were chosen because of their Spiritual meaning for the culture here.

At one time in Ashcroft, the Chinese community was almost half of the population and owned approximately half of the businesses.  Many stories are told about the experiences children had going to the Ginger Store (owned by the Aie Family) to get penny pieces of  dried fruits and other such"candies".

Today very few Chinese exist here in Ashcroft as many sought new locations for better opportunities.  It has been wonderful to explore the past through the eyes of the Wong, Wongs and Aie families and through information received through the Ashcroft Museum. 

Chi Aie and Artist Marina Papais

During the unveiling of the Harmony Bell Project it was discovered that Chi Aie has been someone that has been sought for many years by Chinese archivists who found her letters from post war times and wanted to connect them to the authoress.  More to come on this story when the details are retrieved 

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The Japanese made their way to Ashcroft throughout its history for various reasons but ultimately they were seeking opportunities for their families.  A significant reality is how the Japanese were interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbour December of 1941. It is hard to get past what happened to Japanese Canadians at that time, most losing everything they had worked very hard to achieve including their freedom.

The Japanese Internment is another part of our Canadian history that we must somehow reconcile.  While compiling the images and stories, Marina was struck by the integrity, steadfastness and resilience of this wonderful culture.

Overlanders and European Settlers

It was a fascinating journey to discover that the families of the first settlers to the Ashcroft area (circa 1860) are still around and have stories to tell.  During the process of understanding the journey of the settlers it was discovered that many families have their roots in the beginning of the settlement that eventually became Ashcroft.  Marina discovered the Parke Family, the Kirklands, the Cornwalls, the Brysons, the Nesbitts, the Shuberts, the Toueys and many more.  Stories are able to be explored in the Ashcroft Museum but the real fun is meeting the families and hearing the fascinating stories handed down generationally.

Jackie Tegart, MLA, and Family 

This image is Jackie Tegart in front of the First Nations quadrant of the Harmony Bell Project where she is drawn in beside her daughter and son-in-law and her grand son and his paternal grandfather.  We are all connected and this project shows that fact well.

Ashcroft was first dubbed St. Cloud in the 1860's and transformed through to Ashcroft eventually.  It was circa 1885 before Van Horne brought the Canadian Pacific Railway through to the town before it became a central Hub of commerce.  Colourful people such as Barnes and Brinks and Catalin all came through this town shaping and developing it through its early history.  Many stories came through the gathering of these iconic historical pictures.

The most startling thing Marina got by compiling images and stories is how often people intermarried and how diverse our population has become.  We truly have a multi-cultured reality here in Ashcroft.  Interesting to note that the Brysons and Parkes were amongst the first to settle the lands and make this country Ranching territory.  Interesting also to note that the Hare Krishna Village is just down the road. Again, the Cannery (1928-1958) brought out another history to the area worth exploring.  

Harmony Bell Project of Ashcroft June 23, 2018

Below this tile is a time capsule that contains information about Ashcroft pre April 7, 2019 . I'd love to be a fly on the wall the day this time capsule becomes unearthed.

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