But here on the West Coast, I let out the stereotypical Western cry: “What about us?” Explorers (and, let’s not forget, exploiters) patrolled the West. Today I want to present an alternate history; that it was not Europeans who were the first foreigners to set foot on “BC” soil, but possibly the Chinese making their way Eastward centuries earlier. Of course, there is little evidence and most of it is shaky. We’ll need a healthy dose of imagination and a small jade monkey with a story.
The monkey we have upstairs was found under a large fir stump in May 1920. It was likely part of a set of three; its hands-over-mouth, “speak no evil” position suggests that it once had “hear” and “see” counterparts. The monkey in question is mentioned in a much-referenced, if outdated, book The Gibson's Landing Story, by Les Peterson, which is helpful because it provides more contextual detail than we have in our museum exhibit. He notes that the monkey was found under a stump, but only speculates on how it got there. He also references an anecdotal account of Eric Thomson, who went on a trip in the Stikine River area and recounted how a bag of Chinese coins was found on the banks dating to 1300 CE. Peterson then speculates that within this greater provincial context, stone carvings could have conceivably been brought here as trade objects.
This could easily be all myth. These histories are foggy not just with time, but with our cultural understandings and biases. Yet, this small jade monkey helps to remind us that not everything is as it seems and that all histories should be critically analyzed.