By Martina PerryThe Canadian Museum of Civilization decided the Nishga Girl has a place in Canadian history.
Following public outcry over the museum’s plans to remove the Nishga Girl from the Canada Hall, representatives from the Canadian Museum of Civilization met with stakeholders who donated and transported the boat.
Mark O’Neill, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and Chantal Schryer, the museum’s vice-president of public affairs, met with boat donator and Nisga’a Chief Harry Nyce, his wife Deanna and Ken Noma, president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, in Winnipeg on July 8.
O’Neill said the meeting was very constructive.
“We concluded together after consulting and talking it out that the Nishga Girl can have a home and present a very important history in the future Canadian Museum of History,” he said.
“This particular boat has taken on a far greater meaning, and far greater symbolism than perhaps people here at the museum thought.”
The Nyces donated the 8.3-metre wooden gillnetter to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1998 to represent the West Coast fishing industry. Nyce fished on the waters of the West Coast with the Nishga girl from 1968 to 1990.
When Nyce was informed the museum was giving his old boat away, he was disappointed.
“I couldn’t find any words,” he said. “I knew in the back of my mind that we weren’t going to let this happen.”
The Nishga Girl was built by Jack Tasaka, a Japanese-Canadian boat builder who lived in Port Edward. The National Association of Japanese Canadians raised money to have the boat transported to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the late ’90s.
Noma told the Ottawa Citizen the decision to give away the Nishga Girl was an insult, and was upset the organization wasn’t consulted prior to the decision.
Following last week’s meeting, both Nyce and Noma are happy the Nishga Girl will remain at the museum. Nyce said he was pleased with the tone of the gathering.
“[Museum representatives] were very respectful at the meeting. They apologized many times for the mistake,” said Nyce, who wore full hereditary chief regalia to the affair.
The Nishga Girl will continue to represent the role the salmon industry had in the development of the West Coast. The boat will also tell the stories of the Nisga’a and Japanese-Canadian communities and how they helped each other in difficult episodes of history.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization announced its intentions to remove the boat from the Canada Hall in June, stating it wouldn’t fit into the museum after its redevelopment into the Canadian Museum of History expected to be completed in 2017.
The museum planned to donate the Nishga Girl to the North Pacific Cannery Historical Site in Port Edward.