In the article, “Into the Country Work”, by Mica Jorgenson, the reader is introduced to the fact that there is a major absence of an Aboriginal presence in historical documents about Barkerville and the Barkerville gold rush. By using primary and secondary sources, Jorgenson is able to show that the indigenous people played an active and important role before, during and after the gold rush in Brakerville.
The article starts by debunking the myth “no First Nations lived or worked” in Barkerville. [i] By using a poem passed down through the generations verbally and utilizing the map, Jorgenson is effectively able to show the reader how wrong this myth is. The poem that starts the article is a references the journey taken by the Lilloeet people venturing North to the gold rush[ii] while the map introduced on the second page of the article, shows the different communities surrounding Barkerville. These are two effective pieces in Jorgenson’s argument as the poem shows the history of the journey the Lillooet people took and the map shows the fact that Barkerville was surrounded by different indigenous communities. It does not make sense that that small area would be ignored, especially since it was surrounded by different natural resources.
Jorgenson then goes onto the myth that most of the indigenous population was wiped out due to the diseases brought on after contact. This was the main reason there was little to no “aboriginal narrative” in our history. [iii] However this fact, while true to some degree as there was major illness and death during this time, is not entirely true as the population was not wiped out as once reported. By using “Tappage’s poem, local newspapers, mining records, and government reports,” Jorgenson was able to show that there was indeed an aboriginal presence in Barkerville. [iv] The indigenous people were fur traders, participated in gold panning, did laundry services, worked as couriers, fishermen, hunters, miners, berry pickers, and prostitutes.[v] The indigenous groups also guided the European’s through the land helping to establish roads ways and routes to different lakes and towns. [vi] This is an important factor in Barkerville’s history as without this knowledge one could make the assumption that Barkerville may not have existed. Without the indigenous presence in Barkerville as a place of trading long before the gold rush, Barkerville may have been missed in the wilderness.
By using a variety of primary and secondary sources, Mica Jorgenson was able to show without question that there was an indigenous presence in Barkerville, before, during and after the gold rush. Jorgenson was also able to show that the indigenous people played an important role as active members of the community through different jobs and land knowledge.
[i] Mica Jorgenson. “Into that Country to Work: Aboriginal Economic Activities in Barkerville’s Gold Rush”, BC Studies, no.185, Spring 2015, 109
[iii] ibid. 112
[v] ibid 114-136
[vi] ibid 114-116