Change “Gassy Jack” statue in Vancouver to a maple tree.

Change “Gassy Jack” statue in Vancouver to a maple tree.

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Andrew Morton started this petition to Mayor Kennedy Stewart and

      Vancouver's history as a city has complicated and controversial roots. The city is a juxtaposition of traditional First Nation territories; The Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, and cosmopolitan modernity. Sustainability, and the future of Vancouver as a city, will rely on the harmony of these two realities.

Cultural symbiosis will rely on our efforts, as a community, to modify and adapt tolerantly to our ever changing environment with the tools and lessons we have been provided by our ancestors. Unfortunately much of this knowledge has been lost.

This brings me to the statue of “Gassy Jack” in gastown. In 2020 we face unprecedented challenges in the way we approach urban planning and the public space in the sense that cultural reconciliation seems to be a priority more than ever. Our infrastructure relies on a cohesive community in order to function efficiently. Cohesion relies on us as a community to solve problems. “Gassy Jack” seems to be a problem, so the question is how to solve it as a community?

 Here is some controversial and revealing historical writing from Olga Ruskin. The times were very different, cultural norms were racially oppressive,  harsh, insensitive and undeveloped. Try to read this history as unbiased as possible and beware of trigger warnings. �❤️ 

“The name Gastown came into use because a Fraser River pilot turned saloonkeeper with the name Capt. John 'Gassy Jack' Deighton was in 1867 the first settler on the site from which Vancouver was to evolve. (In Victorian times the term 'to gas' referred to talking a lot, something which Captain Deighton had become famous for.) It is said that Deighton had erected his saloon at Luck-Lucky which meant grove of maple trees close to Stamp's Mill (near what is now the foot of Gore) with the help of eager workers from the mill just 24 hours after arriving on the shores of Burrard Inlet. He called it the Globe Saloon after his former saloon in New Westminster.

      The saloon was a makeshift structure - a 12' by 24' board-and-batten shack. A large maple tree grew close by and eventually the spot became known as Maple Tree Square. Today it's the intersection of Water and Carrall, the maple tree gone but a statue of Gassy Jack remains.  Deighton wrote in a letter that it was "A lonesome place when I came here first, surrounded by Indians. I care not to look outdoors after dark. There was a friend of mine about a mile distant found with his head cut in two. The Indian was caught and hanged."

      Gassy Jack had come to Luck-Lucky from New Westminster in a dugout canoe with his Indian wife, her mother, and Big William, her cousin who was along to do the paddling. It was while in New Westminster that he earned his reputation for being "gassy" entertaining customers with stories at his Globe Saloon, according to a contemporary, of "desperate adventures and hairbreadth escapes from Sydney docks, Yankee road agents, Mexican bandits, grizzly bears, etc.". We learn this from two letters that "Ancient Mariner" (most probably a sailing associate of Deighton's) wrote to the Vancouver News Advertiser in 1888. The letters are interesting because they give us a contemporary assessment of John Deighton.

      "At some future day when Vancouver becomes the emporium of the Pacific shores" Ancient Mariner wrote, "the name of the first permanent settler will be sought out by historians and given a name as great as that for which many thousands have ventured limbs, lives and fortunes. Yet the already-locally famous Gassy Jack never sought for fame, nor had he the least atom of hero about him."

So, in light of this information I propose a different symbol to represent the history of the downtown core. A maple tree. Perhaps if we replaced the statue with a real, native-Canadian maple tree,  it could represent the original Industrialization stories as well as remove the glorification of any controversial individual. Our history is important to learn, making the inclusivity of the narrative to our whole community a foundation of education.

 After over 17,000 signatures have been collected for the petition to remove the “Gassy Jack” statue it is clear that our local community has conflicting opinions on the aesthetics of public space. Hopefully we can work together to agree on solutions as well as problems. Aesthetics that promote nature, green space, public space, reconciliation, sustainability, unity, community all rely on symbology that unites us. Hopefully a maple tree is seen as much Canadian as it is Natural. ❤️

      

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