The Politics of Public History in the Fraser Valley, the Tretheweys of Abbotsford, and Legacies of White Supremacy




Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, race and racism, South Asians


This research note is based on the experiences of a former Heritage Abbotsford Society Board Member (2018-2021). It critically reflects on the politics of public history, related to ongoing representations of the Trethewey family in the City of Abbotsford, B.C.'s public place names and heritage sites. It argues that public revelations about the association of the family to the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the town during the 1920s needs to be better represented and critically reflected upon in representations of local pasts, especially in light of recent movements against institutional racism and for truth and reconciliation. Based in part on one presentation from a panel at BC Studies at the Unviersity of the Fraser Valley in May of 2021, this research note suggests future research is needed to undcover more local histories of white supremacy and racism in the Fraser Valley. Futher work is needed to understand the ways these histories intersect and engage with the past and present politics of doing public-facing historical work in a country increasingly reckoning with its racist pasts.

Author Biography

Ian Rocksborough-Smith, University of the Fraser Valley

Ian Rocksborough-Smith teaches mainly US history at the University of the Fraser Valley. His research interests include the study of late nineteenth and twentieth century United States, public history, social movements, and histories of race, labour, religion, and empire in the Atlantic world. He has published in The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, and The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. He hasauthored a number of book reviews for various academic journals, including Reviews in American History and contributed recent op-eds to LABOROnline (LAWCHA), Canadian Dimension, and The Con-versation (Canada). He is the author of Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2018.





Research Note