Canada’s Internment Era: A Field School
Professor: Jordan Stanger-Ross
Vivian Wakabayashi Rygnestad
and the Landscapes of Injustice research collective
Welcome to an unusual course that I’m especially excited to teach. It is comprised of 20 students: 10 of you are regular
UVIC graduate and undergraduate students and 10 are in-service teachers recruited from across Canada. We’ll spend two intensive weeks together, first travelling to the British Columbia interior on the Nikkei National Museum’s bus tour of sites of internment. Then, we’ll spend a week together at the University of Victoria in classroom seminars (mornings) and completing group projects (afternoons).
This course emerges from Landscapes of Injustice, major national research project centred at UVIC and funded by the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant program. The project has been working since 2014 to research and tell the history of the dispossession of the property of Japanese Canadians, a dimension of the internment era that was until recently only little understood and that many on our project feel is essential to understanding the internment era. I’m delighted, as the Director and lead researcher of Landscapes of Injustice, to be able to offer this course to you.
I hope that all students emerge both informed and inspired. I hope you’ll know the history of the interment and
dispossession of Japanese Canadians better than you do now, that you’ll acquire knowledge through readings, discussion and assignments, as well as by seeing Canada’s interment sites with your own eyes, walking them with your own feet, and meeting people who lived through this history. At the end of the course I hope you’ll feel conversant in the history of Japanese-Canadian internment, that is, able to speak about it in an informed and confident fashion. But the course aims to provide you with something more than knowledge. I also hope you’ll also feel inspired. I wish for each of you a personal connection with this history that will propel you toward continued study of historical injustice and your own pursuits of justice in the present.
I hope that the mix of in-service teachers and regular students benefits everyone. The course aims to provide teachers
with the tools to teach this history in your own classrooms. To this end one we’ll be joined—on the bus tour and for two in-class sessions—by the marvelous co-chairs of the Teacher Resources Cluster of Landscapes of Injustice, Greg Miyanaga (elementary) and Mike Perry-Whittingham (secondary). Both are in-service educators who have been working with Landscapes of Injustice since 2014 and will share with you the resources that they have been developing. I hope that the teachers in this class will go on to teach this history, but also that you’ll be advocates for it among your peers.
At the same time, I hope that discussions of teaching this history outside the academy will be enriching for all students.
Public history—engagement with the past outside of the academy—is one of my scholarly passions: it provides rich opportunities to interrogate the purpose, importance, and meaning of the past. I hope all students leave the course thinking about the public application of academic learning: What do scholars and partners outside of the academy offer to each other, in the telling of history? What roles can historical learning can have in broader democratic life and practice?
We’re lucky (and I’m delighted) to be joined in this course by two important leaders within the Japanese-Canadian
community, each of them distinguished educators in their own right and members of the Landscapes of Injustice Community Council.
Arthur Miki has had a distinguished career as an educator and community activist. He began his career as an
elementary school teacher and later served as principal for 18 years. Mr. Miki was president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians when he led the negotiations to achieve a just redress settlement for Japanese Canadians interned during the 1940s. In 1991 he received this country’s highest recognition, the Order of Canada. On July 12, 2012 he received the Order of Manitoba. Mr. Miki was Citizenship Judge for Manitoba and Saskatchewan from 1998 to 2008. He is currently a part time lecturer at the University of Winnipeg, Faculty of Education. He is also author of The Japanese Canadian Redress Legacy; A Community Revised (2003) and co-author of Shaku of Wondrous Grace; Through the Garden of Yoshimaru Abe (2007).
Vivian Wakabayashi Rygnestad is a retired school principal and lives in Richmond B.C. She is committed to learning,
understanding, honoring, preserving and teaching others about Japanese Canadian history. Along with her extended family in B.C. and Toronto, she has been active within the Japanese Canadian community for many years. She is President of the B.C. Retired Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association, and has experience working with school districts, teachers, and principals/vice-principals as a presenter and facilitator in professional development. She has worked with two book committees on Japanese Canadian history: “Honouring our People” (stories of our elders), and “Pidgin English” (preserving our oral history). In 2015, Vivian was honoured as one of UBC’s Outstanding Alumni from the Faculty of Education.
Although your participation is not a graded component of this class, it is crucial to all of us accomplishing our aims.
The ability to read and encounter complex material, formulate opinions, and then engage others in evidence-based discussion may be the most important skill that we can teach in a history course. This is a real-life capacity that you’ll be able to use outside of the classroom, just as much (if not more) than advanced writing skills. So, I hope that this class will be a site of lively discussion and debate.
A lot of this depends on you. For discussions to work, you have to arrive prepared and ready to talk. This means
reading in advance of our meetings, processing while on tour, and honing your ability to express your views out loud and on the spot. And don’t be afraid to disagree with one another (or with me)! Respectful disagreement is a hallmark of healthy intellectual and democratic discussion.
1. Photo Journal: 25%
The Photo Journal assignment is designed to integrate visual and textual storytelling and to help you to process and
analyze your time on the bus tour. As you all know, today’s communication landscape is as much visual as it is textual. You’ll get a chance in this assignment to use both means to tell a story or explore ideas important to you. Your results will also help us to build a website (see group assignments) that will convey this course experience to outside audiences, a part of the public history emphasis of this course.
The Photo Journal assignment will be completed during the course, based on photographs (and, if you wish, very short
videos) that you will take during the tour component of the class (week 1). You’re welcome to use your phones to take the photographs, although if some participants have more refined skills/gadgets, that would be wonderful too. The photographs themselves will not be graded on aesthetic grounds, but rather in terms of your use of them as evidence/illustration of the themes you develop in your journal (see below).
Every day on tour, you’ll be expected to select two photographs or videos to represent that day’s activities. At our
evening matome sessions while on the tour, you’ll have a chance to jot-down some of your thoughts about the images/videos that you’ve selected for that day. We’ll do some sharing about these in our discussions together. Please note that the Photo Journals are intended for public use/use within the class, so they should be images and thoughts that you are comfortable sharing and that are appropriate to this purpose.
Your full Photo Journal is due at the start of class on the second day of the in-class session you will submit digitally to
the course Basecamp site. Journals should be comprised of:
10 photographs or videos (2/day on tour). Videos cannot exceed 1 minute in length.
Short annotation for each photograph or image (approximately 100 words each, so the total annotation is 1000 words).
A short introduction and conclusion (max. 100 words each).
Your journal can be personal and self-reflexive, or more outward-looking and analytic in nature. It will be graded
according to the following ideal features, each equally weighted:
The introduction articulates clear and compelling guiding questions and/or themes.
The journal includes 10 photographs/videos that clearly respond to and relate to the themes/questions of the introduction.
Annotations for all photographs/videos are organized, thoughtful, well formed (error-free) and provide additional information critical for the reader’s understanding.
Photographs/videos and annotation present a unified and coherent response to guiding questions or themes, telling a coherent story or conveying a coherent message.
The conclusion draws the journal to a close and prompts further reflection.
Examples: Humans of New York is a model; more creative/chaotic forms (as long as they still ultimately cohere) also
2. Group project: 35%
Most things worth doing are done with other people. Most real accomplishments are shared. This assignment asks you
to work intensively with a group (in the second week of the course) to complete a group assignment, which will then be judged (in part) by the group itself. This assignment requires some preparation before the course begins. This process will start on the course Basecamp site, where you will choose your groups and formulate your plans. You’ll have four intensive afternoons to complete work, and then you’ll present the beta-version results at a cocktail hour on the last afternoon of the class. (Drink before your presentation at your own discretion.)
Details: Each group will have 4-5 members. Each group must include at least one in-service teacher and at least one
“regular” UVIC student.
Group assignment options:
1. Photo Journal Website: This group will work together to transform the individual Photo Journals into a powerful,
communicative website by the end of the week. High-level technical support is
available from the University of Victoria libraries, upon request.
2. Teacher Resources Knowledge Transfer: Work as a team to develop/transfer materials to other jurisdictions/settings. Your
group can brainstorm the specifics, but it might include (for example) translating some TR materials into French, adjusting
them for curricula in other provinces, envisioning their use in a university classroom(!), or developing connections
between them and with other topics/materials.
3. Bus tour enhancements: This group could work together to build new research into the NNM bus tour. Conducting your
own primary and secondary research (work with LOI crack Research Coordinator Kaitlin Findlay) to integrate the latest
research into components of the Bus Tour. Create a short package of materials for distribution to the NNM, for them to
consider for next time.
4. Choose your own adventure: Pitch your ideas for a group project to peers over the Basecamp site in the month prior to
the class. Form a group, get sign-off from the prof., and get your project up and running!
This assignment has several components:
1. Statements of purpose and audience: After the first session your group will submit statements of
purpose (200 words max) and intended audience (100 words max) which I will return to you with comments the next day.
These statements can be refined as you continue your group work, and will be shared during the cocktail hour on Friday
along with the beta version of the project result.
2. Beta version presentations during a cocktail hour session, you will present your beta versions of the final projects. You’ll
receive feedback from peers and from me.
3. Final submission: 35% of final grade (due date negotiable). The deadline for final submission is negotiable, but firm (i.e. I
will work together with your group to establish a firm final deadline, which much be approved unanimously by all
members of the group). Once we have that deadline, we’ll stick to it (i.e. late penalties will apply).
Group project assessment rubric:
The projects will be assessed according to the following ideal features, each equally weighted:
The project is guided by an appropriately ambitious purpose and clearly meets that purpose.
The project is guided by an appropriately ambitious intended audience and is crafted in a way that shows the potential to effectively communicate with that audience.
The project mobilizes resources in creative and effective ways to achieve its aims.
Grades for individual students for the beta version of the project are calculated on the basis of four components:
50%: A single group mark that I will assign to the project. This grade will reflect my assessment of the quality and professionalism of student work and the success of this work in meeting its aims and communicating to intended audiences;
30%: A single group mark, provided by 2 other relevant adjudicators, to be determined in discussion with group members about their intended audience (e.g. Nikkei National Museum Staff, Art and Vivian, Kaitlin, etc.);
10%: Peer-Assessment: The component is comprised of the average of marks given to each individual by their peers on the project (members of their own group), reflecting an assessment of their contribution;
10%: Self-Assessment: Each individual participant’s evaluation of their own performance on the project.
3. Peer review of group project: 15%
Unfortunately, even after your presentation at the cocktail hour you can’t just relax (sorry!). Instead, you need to
evaluate one other group project.You’ll have the opportunity to choose another project to review. Then, during the group’s presentation (and in discussion with group members during the cocktail hour) you’ll want to take some notes on how well their beta version is working. Assess the project in terms of the three evaluation criteria above. Try to help the group to improve their work. Imagine yourself as the toughest critic they will face. Be tougher than the professor will be. Tougher than Vivian and Art (and they’re tough). But also be supportive and constructive (it’s a delicate art). Your goal is to help the other group to expand/sharpen their ambitions and their results. Your written feedback to the group (250 words max) must be submitted electronically to all group members and to me. It will be assessed for its efficacy in finding ways to improve the beta version in the three areas of evaluation (purpose, communication with audience, and use of resources).
4. Final paper: 25%
Your final paper for this class asks you to consider another major piece of scholarship/writing on Japanese Canadian
history/experience, and to consider what it has to say from the perspective of your experience in this course. In your essay you should convey the major themes/arguments of the scholarship that you choose, but you should also reflect on yourself as a reader. In particular, I am curious to learn how your reading of the book you choose is affected by the experiences you had, discussions you participated in, and relationships you formed in the course. How does going to sites of internment shape your reading of this history? How does meeting people who lived through the policies inform your understanding of scholarly texts? How did reading the book you chose change what you learned by participating in the Field School? Did it challenge or alter what you thought you knew? What might you do next?
Kirsten McAllister, Terrain of Memory
Joy Kogawa, Obasan