The180·THE 180

Rewriting the truth into B.C.'s stop of interest signs

The province of B.C. is creating new "Stop of Interest" signs along its highways, as well as refurbishing existing ones. But archeologist Joanne Hammond says the existing signs need rewriting, not just refurbishing. In fact, she's started the work herself online.
Archeologist Joanne Hammond is taking it upon herself to write Indigenous history into B.C.'s roadside history signs. (Joanne Hammond/Republic of Archaeology)

"To the victor goes the signs." 

That's the heading on one of Joanne Hammond's rewritten "Stop of Interest" signs.

The B.C. government is running a campaign to refurbish, and add to, its collection of signs that mark points of history along the province's highways. 

Archeologist Joanne Hammond. (CBC)

But Hammond, an archeologist, says it needs to go further: she says many of the signs need rewriting, to acknowledge Indigenous history. 

The signs were first written in 1958, and she says they reflect the way we saw the world then: "They're a product of a generation of history-making that really relied heavily on these colonial tropes of a taming of the wild by white men, by taking advantage of the wilderness and the blank canvas of the new world top build prosperity." 

In many cases, Hammond says, there's no mention of Indigenous people at all. 

"So, the sign that was erected near my house, talked about the fur trade and the railroads, and the gold rush, and it doesn't say anything explicitly negative about the Tk'emlups people, it says nothing at all about them, which ignores the fact that the only reason that the commercial success of Kamloops went anywhere at all was because of the pre-existing trade networks and relationships and resource stewardship that the Secwepemc people practised for millennia." 

Archeologist Joanne Hammond's rewrite (right) of a B.C. "Stop of Interest" sign (left). (Joanne Hammond/Republic of Archaeology)

So Hammond has taken to Photoshop to rewrite some of the existing signs. 

"I'm writing people back into the history."