Vivian Rygnestad, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 31 January 2018 (2 of 2)

Vivian Rygnestad, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 31 January 2018 (2 of 2)

Abstract
In this followup to Vivian's oral history with Rebeca Salas conducted in August 2017, Vivian shares more stories of her work in education leading multiculturalism workshops and developing leadership standards for principals and vice-principals, connecting her professional experiences to her heritage. She also tells more about her family's connections to the Blind Bay area and the legacy of service and Japanese Canadian identity in multiple generations of her family.
00:00:00.000
Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
This Carolyn Nakagawa with Vivian Rygnestad, it's January the 31st, 2018, we're at Vivian's home in Richmond, and we're recording part two of her oral history for the Landscapes of Injustice project. Um, so Vivian, you requested that we, do a follow up interview after your initial interview with Rebeca, um, and I thought even just the story of why you wanted to do a second interview was maybe a good way to start off the follow up, part two, of your oral history. So, can you share that with us?
Vivian Rygnestad (VR)
I think, the first time I did it, I was really focused on my grandparents', my parents' story...thinking that that was the Japanese-Canadian part. That, was relevant to the interview. And then...when my daughters looked at the transcripts and they said, “Mum, you didn't talk about yourself very much,” and I said, “Oh but it's not about myself,” and then I thought... “You know, my story is just as much a Japanese-Canadian story as my parents and grandparents.” So... there were, I think there were two minor errors in the written transcript that I corrected, spelling more than anything else. It was nothing serious. But I probably just wanted another chance to, have another chat with Carolyn both laugh. So, yeah, um...in looking through the, the transcript I realized that there were parts of my, professional and, and MY story that...perhaps, I had omitted. Whether it was conscious or not, I don't know. So, that's why we're here for the follow up.
CN
Great, great. Um, so...yeah, maybe we can just start off by talking about your, career as a teacher and principal, um, and the different activities that you've done, uh, in the profession. You mentioned that you were doing some of the early multiculturalism workshops.
VR
It was interesting going through that first interview because of course since then, there's been a lot of reflecting on my part. And it's that whole thing isn't it of, a theory of adult learning is, adults learn not by doing, but by reflecting on their doing. And it's true...yes, um, when multiculturalism became a big word, I remember, joining a group in the Surrey school district, which is where I was, and then eventually doing workshops for the BC Teachers' Federation, the BCTF? Multiculturalism at that time...had its detractors. And often I would go into a school or into a group and they'd say, but we're not multicultural. And so what I tried to get across to people is that, being a multicultural society is not just paying attention to the non-white people. That everyone has a cultural background, and so I used to encourage the students, and adults too, to go back into their family to find out, and they discovered they were, French or, or Scottish or, whatever, that...that it was honouring everybody's background. So I did do multicultural workshops because that was a big thing, but a big part of that became social justice. And honouring everyone's lives. And that's how I think, I got started in doing workshops and doing presentations and travelling around the province.
CN
Mhm. And do you...think that having Japanese-Canadian heritage informs your work in multiculturalism and social justice?
VR
Informs? Probably...but then I think it's more than that, I think it's, an awareness, of...being part of a culture through birth. Being part of a culture that wasn't always the dominant culture. And...listening to my parents from what they said, and realizing what they did, that after the period of internment, there was such a...push, to...as my father actually said, we need to PROVE that we're good Canadians. And, and it was interesting when I joined the Redress movement back in the eighties, and I started to talk with people who were my age and who were Japanese Canadian ancestry, and we all agreed hey, that we all sort of got the same message of, we need to prove that we're good Canadians. How do you prove that you're a good Canadian? Number one, get a good education. Number two, be of service to your community. Over and over again, that was the story I heard from other people, and certainly, that was what, um, was expected of me? And not just expected of me but was...supported by and, my parents...did the role modelling of being of service to the community.
00:05:05.000
00:05:05.000
VR
My father was actually a school trustee in Kamloops in the 1950s. Which was pretty good, and he campaigned on, at that time, it was, um, vending machines were starting to come into the high schools and they were going to have...pop. Coca Cola, and things like that. And my father, one of the things laugh that he took on was, No, if we're going to have vending machines with drinks for kids, it should be milk laugh. He was quite ahead of his time. But, yeah. I...so the Japanese Canadian part? The answer is probably yes. I've had time to think about, and to learn about, MY culture. And uh...so it was an advantage, in a way.
CN
Um, and you mentioned that you had done some things, not just within BC, but also across Canada and attending some international conferences. Both laugh I'm going to make you brag, Vivian. both laugh
VR
My daughters went, Why didn't you tell them about that? “Oh, I...” laugh Um, in 2010, a friend at - before that I was part of a small group through the BC Principals Vice Principals Association, and we developed the very first leadership standards for BC principals and vice principals. And it became quite a sought-after document, we had requests from Australia, United States, across Canada, asking to see our documents. And actually, in going through the process of coming up with the standards, it was probably the best professional learning I'VE ever had to do. Because there was very little out there in world literature in terms of leadership standards. So we developed that, and then in the summer of, I think it's 2010, we were invited to the Oxford Learning Round Table, so we spent a whole week in Oxford. It was wonderful. And, we presented our leadership standards to about thirty-seven educators from around the world. It was intimidating, it was...VERY interesting...it was FUN. I enjoyed all the sessions but I also enjoyed Oxford, I remember waking up early, I'd wake up usually, five thirty in the morning and go for a run through the streets of Oxford, when the city, when the town was just waking up, and it was wonderful. It was wonderful making friends with people from other countries, it was interesting hearing their stories...it was, a very broadening experience. And I actually made YouTube, when uh, three, four of us, went punting on the river? We'd never punted before. And uh...yeah, we weren't very good at it, in fact, my friend fell into the river at one point. And, some people who were walking along the shore were, laughing at us so much that they filmed us and, we were on YouTube. CAROLYN laughs “How not to punt on the Thames”! laughs That, okay, so that was in Oxford, and that was, REALLY good, that was really really good. And then, um, I was invited at another time to, a conference, and I can't remember the name of the conference, it was in Turku in Finland, and it was the, EU? It was the Baltic states, it was the Scandinavian countries, it was three sort of conferences all put together. There were about 320 of us. And at that time, Finland was really coming into its own as a world power in education. And everyone was wondering, what is Finland doing? What are THEY doing? And it was FASCINATING. I loved the size of the conference, there were only about 320 people, which is nice, because you get to talk to everybody. Um...I wasn't on the schedule to present, but on the second, third day, I was lucky that, when people heard about the leadership standards that we had in BC, they asked me to talk about it, so I did. But it was, REALLY really interesting, and particularly to learn about how education, standards and education practices are determined by culture. And the expectations of the, the broader society. So, that was good and I liked Finland too. So those are my two international experiences.
CN
Great. I'm curious about what it felt like for you to be, um, in those kinds of conference and professional environment also, um, representing Canada and if that was something that you thought about as being like, the Canadian at these conferences. Um, for me especially I feel like, often Asian Canadians, when they go abroad there's this sort of...um...surprise? That that's the country that you're from? I don't know if that's something that came up for you, or if there's other things that you, were conscious of when you were representing Canada in those circles.
00:10:09.000
00:10:09.000
VR
pause I agree. Uh, first of all...my last name, Rygnestad, is hardly Asian both laugh. So it's a name that doesn't match the face, that I've been told laugh! Uh...it's a good chance to talk to people about Canada. Because certainly countries like Finland, Norway, so many countries have been, close to monocultural. For generations. And...around that time and certainly now, there's a lot of focus on, assimilation of people who are not of the dominant culture. And, and I was very proud always to say of Canada...we just are. And, and that question of a hyphenated, Japanese Canadian, Russian Canadian, that's come up, in various conversations that I've had with people. You know...“do you like being called Japanese Canadian? Isn't that...sort of, an insult that now you're called Japanese Canadian?” And I had to do a lot of thinking about that, and I realized that, really it's not, a demarcation of differentness, it's a cultural reference more than anything else. My background is Japanese Canadian. It doesn't mean I'm Japanese. If I, if someone says yeah, I'm Scottish, I guess I'm Scottish Canadian, it just means there's something in their heritage. And, I like to think of it as, not being seen as different or, the other, but, hey that's interesting, and then, often the conversations go into...you know, do you, do you do this or do you do that? But certainly the Canadian - and that's part of being Canadian is part of, being accepted for, who you are and we're all here and, other than First Nations people, we're all immigrants. And we all share in this wonderful thing and I think that's the good thing, I remember, um, going to a high school reunion a few years ago. And uh, one of my friends said, hey Vivian, some people used to think that um, eating Japanese food was really, oh my goodness, this is wonderful and, and he said, no no no, we used to go to Vivian's family's place and eat, Japanese food fifty years ago, forty years ago! So, yeah you're right it's, being able to talk about, what it's like to be a Canadian. And I like to think that...that whole push, you know referring back to a previous question...of, we need to prove that we're Canadian. I think, Japanese Canadians, have assimilated well? But at the same time, people of my generation, missed out on some of the things that, my parents had. Learning the Japanese language, certain Japanese cultural practices, um, things like that. In our push to be, Canadian. I'm glad to see that people like my granddaughter, my children, my granddaughter, young people...have this rejuvenated interest, in...their Japaneseness. But at the same time, I like the fact that it's not, a Japaneseness, it's Japanese CANADIAN-ness. And I think that's the, the key part, that saying hey, I'm celebrating being Canadian, I'm also celebrating my heritage. Because we're all kind of getting mixed up, aren't we?
CN
Mhm.
VR
Yeah.
CN
Yeah. Yeah. I'm interested if you think that especially, um, in the first part of your interview which I transcribed, I was really interested in seeing how, you describe the different generations of your family. Um, and I'm wondering, because the focus of this project is the internment, if you have any thoughts about how, the specific history of Japanese Canadians might have affected that, and the different generations of your family, and how they...uh, how you and they see, your, sort of hybrid identity.
VR
pause That's interesting. Carolyn laughs Yeah. Because, definitely -
CN
Different than, Chinese Canadians, for example. Who didn't have the same history.
VR
And it's something to be proud of, I mean, unique, that's what makes you special. It's interesting because, throughout...the Landscapes of Injustice, when, as a Community Council we're talking, we have been adamant. We're not Japanese. We're Canadian. We're Canadian, Canadian Canadian Canadian. There's always the ethical, um, dilemma too, of...as Japanese Canadians, can we be held accountable for what, happened or happens in Japan? So if you're talking about World War II and some of the things that happened in Asia...
00:14:58.000
00:14:58.000
VR
I know that, I haven't heard it but I know of people who...will counter, Redress, or, counter even Landscapes with...“well you know my grandfather, he was in a prisoner of war camp, you know what the Japanese did”. Or even...there's that one particular group in Canada, that's focusing on the Nanking Massacre. And holding, “the Japanese”, accountable. Okay, that's one thing, but, I'm Canadian. So the, the ethics of it all, and the conundrum of it all, is...how....how much, responsibility do I as a Japanese Canadian have to take for that? And so that goes back to apologies too, doesn't it? You know, in history. But back to that Japaneseness, it's interesting because, in our push to always say, we're not Japanese, we're Canadian. We're Canadian Canadian Canadian. But the interesting thing is if you go into the fourth and fifth generations like my granddaughter for example...and they quite proudly say hey, yeah I'm Japanese. So I think that's definitely a generational thing. I'm glad they're able to say that! Because my generation, we were so busy saying hey, wait a minute, I'm Canadian! laugh Yeah, so does that answer your question?
CN
I think so, yeah.
VR
laugh I hope so!
CN
Yeah! Yeah. Um...I'm wondering if you could um...say a bit about, a specific thing that you mentioned, in the first part of, um, you wanted to add to the first part of your interview was...about Harry Aoki. Um...
VR
Oh, I. I forgot to include his name as one of the people who was, in Blind Bay with us.
CN
Right.
VR
He came to join us. He...um...I think, originally he had gone with his family, and they were in Alberta, and he left there, and came to join us in Blind Bay. And, my mother and father had known him from before and they said, one day he just suddenly showed up. Another interesting thing is, when he was in Blind Bay, working at the sawmill along with everyone else...apparently two men came in a car, two non-Japanese men, two Caucasian men, came in a car, and uh...wanted to talk to, Harry Aoki. pause Um...and he was quite angry about it, and he, and he left shortly thereafter. He had originally left his family, to, he wanted to go to the United States to be a ski instructor. But he was turned away at the border. So that's how I think he ended up in Blind Bay instead of Alberta. So, yeah, um, he stayed with us, I don't remember much? He just stayed for a little while, and then he left, and then...afterwards when our family moved to Notch Hill, my mother said - and she really liked Harry, she said, he suddenly just showed up one day, Hi, I'm here to stay with you for a while. And I remember he had a guitar. And uh...I just thought he was really cool. And so he lived with us for a while and, I don't know did I tell you the story about the uh...the crackers? It was really popular in those days...I forgot what they were called. You take a, you know the saltine crackers, those really cheapy crackers? CAROLYN laughs And you build this, uh, you put butter on it and people put Worcestershire sauce on it. And, I don't know that it's good. But he taught me how to, take the cracker and very carefully build a little sort of, fence around it with butter, and in the middle, put a bit of jam. And I remember practising and practising and managing to do it, so the cracker didn't break, and. He did that. He played the harmonica, with my father. And I remember I was always fascinated by his harmonica abilities, he had his guitar...he was just, a REALLY really nice man and uh...I know my parents really enjoyed him and...good memories. Of learning.
CN
That's interesting, it's almost like a story of um, in the midst of this dispersal, the community kind of pops out of the blue. “Hello I'm here” laugh and - you have an Uncle Harry.
VR
Yeah. Yeah. Carolyn laughs Yeah. And I did consider him, Uncle Harry for the longest time. And so when he passed away, I went to the Celebration of Life at UBC and, people were telling stories about him in his later years, when he was here in Vancouver, and, his later years as a musician in particular, and, there I was laugh. I felt a bit silly at first, but. No, I told a story about when I was a child and he was just a young man. And I have pictures of him that I have sent to John Greenaway at the Bulletin, of him skiing. And he's the one that showed me how to ski. And, I guess I got my first pair of skis from him, but I had this one picture of myself, five years old with this, this zealous expression on my face of going down this little hill. NO technique, but full of enthusiasm laugh. That was thanks to Harry Aoki! laugh Yeah.
00:19:50.000
00:19:50.000
CN
Yeah. Uh, since I kind of jumped back to the Blind Bay years, um, you mentioned that your family has continued to have connections to the area. Um...in more recent years, both you yourself visiting there,
VR
Oh, yeah.
CN
-um, and, and other generations in your family.
VR
My granddaughter...um, she'd probably be embarrassed if I said this. Carolyn laughs But her...boyfriend's family has a, a house, a cabin, at Blind Bay. And she's been invited to go there, and so she...she does go there, often during the year. And so she was, talking and saying about how much she loves it there, she said I, I just love it there, and his family LOVES it there, and. They come all the way from Calgary to this place, and this is their cabin there. And, and it's my daughter who said, isn't that interesting. That that's, Blind Bay - just a tiny place. Where I was born, our family was incarcerated. And here comes...the, what. The fourth generation...who...loves it there. And just feels an affinity for the place. Yeah. It's, it's nice. Full circle.
CN
Yeah. It's interesting how, even when you call it like a site of incarceration for your family, it's become, uh, a place that, can be...associated with, fond memories.
VR
I think a lot of that is um, thanks to my parents. The, the lack of bitterness. Because...I'm not the only one. But I know that, I grew up happy. I um, I never sensed bitterness or anger, or um, anything like that. I had a very happy childhood. I know my parents struggled. But I was never made to feel...victimized. I was, well-loved. And I think if you talk to a lot of people of my generation, who were babies, young children, we would all say yes, we were well loved. We were lucky, we had, family around us, we had extended family around us, and, if they weren't extended family, you just adopted them into your family. Harry Aoki. And uh...we were well loved. We were well cared for, we were supported in our education, and so, when I say that...Blind Bay was not a, a place of, I'll never want to go back there again, sort of idea. No, my parents, in later years, when we lived in Kamloops, we would go out there to swim, and uh, friends of ours had a cabin out there, and we would go out there every so often, and enjoy staying out there, so...you know I say thanks to my parents for, keeping an open attitude and, not...not passing on their, woes, to another generation. It was a case of, clapping sound shikata ga nai
it can't be helped
. Let's just, move on. And the other thing was with the McArthur family that I talked about in the first interview - that was SO nice and so, we kept up ties with the McArthur family until, quite recently. And the family that looked after us, that gave us a place to live in Notch Hill? Uh, we still have ties with them. I think, I said in my first interview about when we took my mother there. And the emotional joy that, that happened. So, I thank my parents for their positive attitude. My mother is, just celebrated her ninety-eighth birthday. And...I think that her biggest strength, when you think about all that she has gone through, because , when we lived in Notch Hill...our house burnt down. And so, for a second time, my parents lost everything. In fact, all that we were left with was, the clothes that we were wearing. Um...when you think about all the things that my, mother, my father, who passed away, but my mother has gone through. She still has a positive attitude to life, she still is curious about life, she still is, funny, she still likes to eat, and she...she has this wonderful outlook on life, and uh, I like to think that that's, their legacy to us. It would be very easy I'm sure for, people like them to be angry and bitter. But that, doesn't get you anywhere. pause Yeah.
CN
Yeah. pause Um...I'm interested in the, the map of Blind Bay that you showed me earlier. Uh, before we turned the recording on. Because, especially because, with Landscapes, there's just an interest in, sort of the geographical, mapping, of...uh, actually mostly, the places where people were BEFORE, internment, or incarceration. Um, but can you tell me the story of how you came across that map and, how it was created?
VR
laugh Oh, that's interesting. There's a woman called Ann Chidwick who, um, she's from Ontario and I gather that when we was a child, her family often came out to the Shuswap area, and had a summer cabin there? And she had fond memories, so when she retired...she...I think she had a place at Blind Bay but she would spend part of the year, in Ontario and part of the year in Blind Bay. There was a reunion in 2014. So she decided to write a book about the history. And while she was researching it, someone said to her one day, “Did you know there were some Japanese that used to stay here? That used to live here, during the war. But they were just here for a little while.”
00:25:15.000
00:25:15.000
VR
She didn't know anything about it, so she decided to ask around...who were they, does anybody know any names, like, what, what happened? Because it wasn't an official, internment site, it was a self-supporting site. Um, she...someone said, oh, maybe Kobayashi. So that's my mother's family name. So then she went online and, Googled Kobayashi and there are lots laugh. She found my cousin, who's an architect in Whitehorse, who said, oh, and...was from him was sent to his father Bill Kobayashi in Toronto. So Bill, talked to Ann Chidwick a lot. And Bill was involved a lot with Redress, and with the Toronto JCCA and things like that. And then Bill said, quite wisely...you need to talk to my older sister, because of course depending on your age you have, different viewpoints about any experiences. My mother, doesn't, didn't have internet, so I...got the stories and things, and passed them on to Ann, from my mother. So when the actual reunion happened, I went with my cousin. And we met Ann Chidwick and she said, oh. Someone came, and said, where did the Japanese live? And I say Japanese with quotation marks, right? Both laugh Because we were Canadians! Um...because she said they had been, renovating their house and they'd taken down all the old siding and everything. And they found tarpaper and, and it looked like someone had been...had had something there before. And someone told her, it's where the Japanese had lived. So she wanted to know more about it. But she was going away, and we never did, hear back from her. But my cousin and I drove out to that spot, because one of the things Ann had done was exactly - what you talked about, the map? Overlaying the map of, 2012 with the map of, what was it 1935 or something like that. Of the homeowners then. And she found the um, more or less the actual site, of where we lived. So my cousin and I drove out there. And it was the same spot, because that's, I remember my mother showing us the spot where we had lived. There was nobody there at the time, it's um, some vacation cabins and that. So my, cousin and I never did follow up and I, I need to do that. Because that's, that IS the construction. Of the...shacks, really. That we lived in.
CN
Yeah, with tarpaper.
VR
Tarpaper, my mother said...when they first moved up to Blind Bay they stayed in a fishing camp, and then they got paid in lumber. And they built their own...houses. But she said it was green wood, so of course with green wood, what happens to it, it shrinks. So the first, I was born in '43 and my mother said, my first winter, she was so scared that I would freeze to death! Because she said...there were gaps in the wood, and so, they would stuff it with newspapers. There were no windows, it was just plastic. But she said they had an actual door. And uh...that's what we lived in. Yeah. And then, other people built their houses...and it sounds like, together with the Tasaka family and our family, that...it was, a fairly, happy little community. For the short time that they were all together. Yeah. pause Can't remember...did I answer the question? laugh
CN
Yeah!
VR
Okay.
CN
I think so, well more or less. I just wanted to, find a way to talk about that story. laugh
VR
Okay! laugh
CN
Yeah. Um, I wonder actually...uh, because we're at your home. And, a home is a really important concept in, Landscapes research because, that was what was lost, uh, for many families. And you've been showing me around, your home and talking about different things that you've, accumulated, different travels, and different, relationships with your family. Um...so, I guess my question is, um...how do you, how do you connect that type of, the way that you are in your home right now with, maybe the way that your parents were, uh, in the homes that you had growing up?
VR
pause I don't understand.
CN
Sorry! laugh Um...um...yeah, I'm just...like, the relationship with objects, has been, something that Landscapes is really interested in. And I notice that you have a lot of those relationships with the things in your home now. And I'm wondering if you can connect that - I know you talked about the clock that your father received, uh, in the first part of the oral history. Um, are there other, things like that, that come to mind, when you think about home? Um, either from your, uh, from your homes growing up, or from your home now, that would, stand out to you?
00:30:21.000
00:30:21.000
VR
That's interesting. My, I remember my mother saying that, in her parents' home, they hid - it was in Kitsilano. They hid a lot of things in the walls. And when we first came back to Vancouver, we would go there, and see the house, but my mother never wanted to go knock on the door. And then of course the house was demolished and an apartment was built. My father's family, I can't remember if I said something in the first transcript, it was on McGill street near the um, PNE. They had, buried a lot of things, and I told the story about my sister and I laugh peeking in the windows!
CN
Yeah, you did laugh.
VR
So...that, and the losses, that my parents had. And then of course...when we, when our house burnt, in Notch Hill in, December...December...would that be...'51. And they lost everything, except the clothes we were wearing. Really we have very little, or nothing from...my parents', history. My aunts and uncles did, send in copies, or made copies of photos. So we have some photos, from...prior to that. I guess for me, you know now that you...raise the question...the stuff that, I treasure, is not...for monetary value. It's not because aesthetically it matches, I mean really nothing matches here. I think, what I value is family history, and I, and through object that I have, it represents family history. So I showed you, some Norwegian things for example. Um, some pictures, some paintings. And...for, the Japanese side...I don't have things from a long long time ago. But, I do have some, um...pictures that my father received, from friends, or received um, in friendship, or received along the way, and I treasure those, because my parents treasured those. So I think what I'm saying is, I'm laugh hanging on to a lot of things from my parents'...home....reluctant to give it away, and...keeping what I can to honour, our family history. So like I say, it's not the monetary value, it's...it's just what it represents more than anything else. Yeah.
CN
Mhm. Um...what kind of pictures did your father receive that you're, holding onto?
VR
There's one, above the piano in the living room? Um, I can't remember who it was, it was a man that he knew, from a long long time ago, who was actually from Japan, and he gave it to my father. Um...there's um, another painting done, by a man from Japan, and it's actually something to do with Kyoto, and neither of my parents' families came from Kyoto but, he...he became good friends with my parents, and, uh, when he moved away from Vancouver, he thanked my parents by giving him - by giving them, one of his paintings. Yeah. So, nothing...major. One thing that I'm looking for, and it's probably somewhere, in one of the boxes at my sister's place or, or here, is a small certificate that my father got from the North Kamloops, uh, municipal council for, as a thank you for service. It's here somewhere. CAROLYN laughs But, that's the kind of things I treasure.
CN
Right.
VR
Yeah. So I guess, the Japanese things that I have are things that represent, history, but are not necessarily of, really long historical value.
CN
Right.
VR
Yeah.
CN
Yeah. Um...well like I said earlier, um, I'm going to shift a little bit. Um, uh, I was really struck in the first part of your interview by, the strong sense of how things play through in your family in many generations. Uh, from your parents to your grandchildren now. And, you did tell me a few stories about, your daughter and your granddaughter, I was wondering if you wanted to add those to, the interview, or, had more to add on them.
00:34:51.000
00:34:51.000
VR
I think, um. No, I know. CAROLYN laughs That...one of the things that...I've learned from my parents and stories about, even my grandparents? The Kobayashi family for example, in Tottori when they gave away their land. Because that's when the famine hit, and uh, things weren't going well, and so the Kobayashis, they gave away parts of their land to their, I think I called them sharecroppers, I didn't know what else to call them. But I think, through example, and through like, role modelling, and, um...life experiences, I think not just of my parents but I think about, aunts and uncles and cousins. That whole legacy of, service...is still here. And, and I was lucky that...my husband Bjorn. His family had that in their history too. The love of history and that, concept of service. So I see, in my younger daughter for example, I think I said in the first transcript I talked about her, nursing. And, recently, since that interview, she did a short stint, because it was after they came back from their travels, from their year of sabbatical, with a First Nations group, as a nurse. But that type of nursing that she's doing is, is not just your...very important hospital work, but it's a different type of nursing. And my older daughter, um...working in the environment as a scientist and, project manager, business development, but as a...volunteer, HOURS and hours of volunteer, she's been doing work, and she's qualified for search and rescue, she's trained a dog to be trained in search, um, qualified for search and rescue. She's also done, um, avalanche, rescue, through the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Association and then, just two weeks ago, she qualified as a team leader, for um, avalanche rescue. And that's, that's a tough course and, and people are saying, wow, there aren't many WOMEN who do that. But I'm just really proud and when I said to her one time, you know all this volunteer work, do people ask you, why are you doing it? And, of course there are people who say, that search and rescue should be a paid position. And her answer to that is that...as soon as, something becomes a job, there's a different mindset of the people who are involved in that, compared to if you have a group of volunteers doing it. So she said, she loves volunteering. Everybody that's involved in this, they're all volunteers. And she said, they're my kind of people. There's a certain mindset. And, and when I said to her about, doing all this avalanche rescue and everything, she said...she actually said one time I think Grandpa would be really proud of me. Yeah. So it's not...it's not, necessarily, how you do your service, it's...you just choose something, and you be of service. It's called influence and I think I said that in my first, transcript too. It's influence, it's. It's the power of one person to, to help out.
CN
Yeah.
VR
And so I see my daughter...my granddaughter Natasha doing that, at university, when she's taken on, leadership positions and uh...continuing on. Work in international relations and. She's thinking now internationally so, it's really interesting, but I look at, the various um...service, jobs that she's taken on at university, while she's been studying so, I'm glad. It's a legacy, I think of our family to, stay positive, be of service, and be a contributor. And be engaged and be happy. I think we talked about that earlier!
CN
Yeah, yeah.
VR
That is so IMPORTANT! So often people say, “Keeping busy?” Well that's easy! both laugh I say...I say, it's more important, to be engaged in something and no matter how old you are, everyone deserves to have something that they, like doing, they're interested in it, it makes them happy, it gives them joy, it gives them pleasure, um...something that engages the brain, and it could be anything. Yeah. So, my philosophy. laugh
CN
Yeah. pause That's great, um, is there anything else that you wanted to add?
VR
pause I don't think so. I'm just really thankful that stories are being kept? It's really interesting because I think so often...we collect stories from, we say our elders and I guess I'm, more or less in that, category. But I think...my interest has, for a long time has been, not just on the stories and the uh, yeah the stories of the people who were adults or, older teens during incarceration?
00:40:11.000
00:40:11.000
VR
My interest has been in, people like me, the generation that were children and, the effects on them. And effects on the next generation, and it's interesting because, I was just reading a while ago about um, Holocaust survivors. And there was a big study being done about the um, the children. The next generations. And the impact. pause
CN
Right, and your generation - well, some, you're part of a subset of that generation that was actually born during that time.
VR
Mhm.
CN
Yeah.
VR
Yeah, so...how did that affect us? And uh, certainly, when I joined the Redress movement, there were so many people my age, we were the sansei, the third generation. We were all well-educated. And uh...service to the community, and. Service to not just, the wider community but to our Japanese Canadian community and how do we, fit in and how can we contribute. How can we preserve, our history? And use the preservation of history, not just for our children and our Japanese Canadian community, but as part of the learning...it's Canadian history. And it might be a dark, part of Canadian history but, it's something that needs to be taught and taught well? In terms of understanding...how things come to be. And I think in today's world it's, quite pertinent.
CN
Mhm. It's interesting that you're reading literature about, uh, effect of the Holocaust on, multiple generations. Uh, I'm wondering if you can, tell me more about, what you've learned from, that kind of reading and maybe other...uh, instances, where you draw your understanding from other cultures.
VR
You know who you need to talk to is Jordan
Stanger-Ross, Landscapes of Injustice project director
. both laugh When I first really got excited was, when Jordan said that he had gone to a conference in Copenhagen, on exactly that. The um, the children of the Holocaust survivors. So laugh he's the one you need to talk to! Me?
CN
But, what does it mean for you?
VR
I just say, you know me, I just say...the little bit that I've taken, the essence of what I have taken, is that...the context of the children's lives, and the attitudes of the people around them, that's what affects it, more than anything else. How, you know like I talked about, feeling well loved and, encouraged and supported and a, positive attitude of the people around me. That's very different than people who are angry or bitter. So I think you can't just look at the children, you have to look at...the context in which they grew up.
CN
The community?
VR
The community around them, their family circumstances.
CN
Makes all the difference.
VR
It does! But then I think you also need to look at, cultural losses and cultural...yeah.
CN
You mean in terms of -
VR
Was there a shame, was there a shame in being, Japanese Canadian? Yes. pause So then you downplay that Japanese part, I'm not Japanese. I'm not Japanese, I'm Canadian. But it's interesting because with Landscapes, one of the things we talk about is when we...identify, we say we're Japanese Canadian. We're Canadian Canadian Canadian. And then you, talk to people like, the fourth and fifth generation, probably more your age, who are quite proud, to say, oh yeah I'm Japanese. And I'm going, “ahhh!” both laugh. Because the Canadian part is so firmly, there. I'm, Canadian. But I'm also Japanese. Yeah. So there is a pride, a resurgence of pride in being able to say I'm Japanese. I guess, my worry is that, I would love for the Japanese CANADIAN community, to work together, to work to, support each other, to understand, that we're a small community in Canada. We don't have a huge amount of, influence, culturally or, um...politically...I don't want us to just disappear. I want, there to be a pride in heritage, and I want, it to be the pride in heritage and it to be continued in, in Canadian history. This is what we contributed. Yeah. Ooh, philosophical.
CN
Yeah both laugh. That's great! Um, any other final thoughts?
VR
Thank you, for the opportunity. Really, truly.
CN
Oh, you're welcome.
VR
Because it wasn't just, an interview, it's...given me...laugh it's the necessity for me to reflect, but it's also given me the opportunity to reflect, and in your questions and Rebeca's questions, it's really...guided my thinking in ways that I haven't thought of, you know, I loved some of your questions, I think, ooh! I hadn't thought of that. Or maybe I had, it just hadn't come out. both laugh But it's good. This is very good, and I hope that um...I hope that this all...comes to be, a learning part of Canadian history for everybody, and a pride for, people of Japanese Canadian ancestry. Yeah.
CN
I hope so too.
VR
Yeah.
CN
Great. Should we wrap up? pause Kay. Thank you.
00:45:25.000

Metadata

Title

Vivian Rygnestad, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 31 January 2018 (2 of 2)

Abstract

In this followup to Vivian's oral history with Rebeca Salas conducted in August 2017, Vivian shares more stories of her work in education leading multiculturalism workshops and developing leadership standards for principals and vice-principals, connecting her professional experiences to her heritage. She also tells more about her family's connections to the Blind Bay area and the legacy of service and Japanese Canadian identity in multiple generations of her family.

Credits

Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Interviewee: Vivian Rygnestad
Transcriber: Carolyn Nakagawa
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Richmond, BC
Keywords: Multiculturalism; Sansei; Blind Bay; education; Japanese; Canadian; heritage; Community Council; 1940s-present

Terminology

Readers of these historical materials will encounter derogatory references to Japanese Canadians and euphemisms used to obscure the intent and impacts of the internment and dispossession. While these are important realities of the history, the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective urges users to carefully consider their own terminological choices in writing and speaking about this topic today as we confront past injustice. See our statement on terminology, and related sources here.