About the Team
MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR & EDITOR: Karen Dosanjh
The Monumental Importance of Preserving the Voices of our Elders
My passion for preserving South Asian pioneer history was first sparked when my extended family came together in 2006, to celebrate the centennial of our forefather, Babaji Gian Singh Johal’s migration to Canada in 1906. Through the recollections of the Johal family elders, I was able to document and preserve Babaji Gian Singh’s experience and discovered the meaningful contributions he made not just to our family, but to the broader community as well. Since I began writing Untold Stories at the start of 2019, I had the privilege of interviewing many wonderful community elders and their families in order to research and develop these multi-generational accounts of resilience and perseverance.
In the middle of the production of this book, the world was suddenly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Our collective focus shifted to the health and well-being of our loved ones and our global community. As a documentarian, I reflected on the experiences of those who came before us. Our brave South Asian settlers had survived unfathomable challenges such as pandemics like the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu, and other life-threating illnesses including Tuberculous. These pioneers endured economic hardships during The Great Depression and uncertainty such as travel restrictions and familial separation as they lived through two World Wars. The early settlers were also worried about basic human concerns such as access to food and shelter, healthcare, financial instability and having to look past the discriminatory attitudes of the times.
Through my Untold Stories conversations, our elders consistently shared anecdotes of how they overcame even the darkest days not just by looking out for their own families, but by supporting the health and well-being of their entire community. More than ever, in this modern age, there is so much to be learned by paying close attention to the whispered voices and the poignant lessons of our past. Sadly, so many of our elders’ voices have been forever silenced as a result of this pandemic. This tragedy puts into clear perspective the unsurmountable value of elders in our society. They are our wisdom holders and the keepers of our traditions, our heritage and our last connection to the generations before. This pandemic reminds us why our elders should be cherished and protected and also validates our calling to preserve their life stories and oral histories.
The South Asian Pioneer
Experience in BC
AAJ Legacy Initiative: Project Leaders
Publisher, Untold Stories
Author & Editor, Untold Stories