Short history pieces relating to Northern Vancouver Island. Many items were previously published in the North Island Gazette or the North Island Eagle newspapers and all the copyright on all content is held by the author, Brenda McCorquodale. Not to be quoted or used without permission firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article was originally published in the North Island Gazette on January 30, 2014.
Many people from Northern Vancouver Island have likely heard of the World’s Fair, or perhaps attended Expo ’86 in Vancouver.
The NorthIsland and many of its community members have an interesting link to one specific historical World’s Fair, of which many people may not be aware. This connection happened during Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and resulted in the attraction of many of the first non-First Nations
settlers to this area.
In the mid 1800s the Hudson’s Bay Company built FortRupert at Beaver Harbour on the NorthIsland. Due
to the isolation and late settlement of the northwest coast, the First Nations
of the area were considered to be relatively ‘untouched’ by European culture.
In order to show off
this unique and interesting culture to the rest of the world, an entire
Kwakiutl village site was re-constructed in Chicago for the World’s Fair. Big houses were relocated to Chicago from Northern Vancouver Island, along with a large number of totem poles, local ceremonial items, and
artifacts. Seventeen Kwakuitl band
members (fifteen adults and two children) wearing traditional cedar robes, and
other historic paraphernalia, were also a part of the display.
Kwakiutl village display in Chicago
The Kwakiutl display
attracted a lot of interest and attention.
The souvenir book said that the Indians in their reconstructed village
would : " live under normal conditions in their natural habitations during
the six months of the Exposition."
The First Nations put
on displays of singing and dancing for visitors, some of which were recorded. When the Fair ended the First Nations
returned home, but many of the artifacts which had been shipped to Chicago were sold to a local museum.
The Chicago World's Fair was a huge
success, with over 27 million visits recorded, at a time when the entire
population of the USA was only about 65 million people. On one day over 750,000 people attended.
Many of the NorthIsland’s first white settlers were lured to the area after hearing the stunning reports of its beauty and richness at the World’s Fair.
Stereoscope postcard of the Kwakiutl village at the fair.
Alexander Lyon was
intrigued by the Kwakiutl exhibit, and moved to FortRupert. He married Sarah Hunt, one of
Robert Hunt’s daughters (Hunt worked for the HBC and bought out the fort when the HBC decided to close it). They started a trading post in HardyBay.
Harry Cadwallader was
a guard at the fair, and also was interested enough by what he saw there to
travel back to the NorthIsland. He met
and married Jane Charity Hunt, another of Robert’s daughters.
A number of Quatsino
settlers were also lured by the Chicago display.
Christain Nordstrom, Edyius Evansen, Halver Bergh, Ole Skarberb
(Sherberg) and about five others decided to relocate to the area.