Chinese & First Nations

Long before young Chinese men came to Canada in the 1800s and early 1900s, men from the same villages had been crossing the seas to many places in other parts of China, in Southeast Asia, in Australia and to Hawai’i. It was common for the men to join the communities they went to and to marry into local families. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Chinese men married into local First Nations and aboriginal communities throughout western Canada.

Lillian Dyck

Senator Lillian Eva Quan Dyck, born in Saskatchewan, is a member of the Gordon First Nation and a first generation Chinese-Canadian. She is reknowned not only for her service in the senate, but her contributions as neuropsychiatrist, professor, and associate dean at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1999, Dyck received a lifetime achievement award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. She was also awarded the YMCA Woman of Distinction Award for Science, Technology, and the Environment in 2003.

In Lillian Dyck - Not Just Chinese, Senator Dyck talks about her family and experiences being of mixed Cree and Chinese ancestry.

Larry Grant

Elder Larry Grant is of mixed Chinese and Musqueam ancestry. Born premature on a hop field in Agassiz, B.C., Grant was raised in Musqueam traditional territory. After retiring as a longshoreman, Grant enrolled in the First Nations Language Program at the University of British Coumbia (UBC) to reconnect with his mother's ancestral language, hən'q'əmin'əm'. Through this transformational process Grant achieved his goal of learning how to welcome people to Musqueam territory using the language, discovered his aptitude for sharing stories, and developed a strong passion for revitalizing hən'q'əmin'əm'. Today he serves the Musqueam Nation as the Language and Culture Consultant.

At UBC, Grant plays a key role in educating others about the first peoples who lived here. He is the Elder-in-Residence at the UBC First Nations House of Learning where he welcomes and connects with an array of visitors, students and staff from around the world. He is also an adjunct professor in the UBC First Nations Language Program, helping to teach the first-year hən'q'əmin'əm' language course which is held at the Musqueam reserve.

In Larry Grant: Not Belonging, Larry shares memories of his family and his experiences being of mixed Chinese and Musqueam ancestry.

In Larry Grant: Intertwining Cultures, Larry talks about his premature birth, the Chinese market gardeners on the Musqueam Reserve dating back to the early twentieth century, and his childhood memories of their farms. 

Visit Chinese Canadian Stories researcher Sarah Ling's story about Elder Larry Grant on UBC's Aboriginal Portal