Liam Pope-Lau, an Oak Bay student, stands in front of his heritage project on Jimmy Chicken. (photo supplied)

Oak Bay student takes aim at national contest with project on Jimmy Chicken

Heritage project tells story of First Nations man who lived on Mary Tod Island

An Oak Bay student is hoping his passion for local history gets noticed on the national scale.

Liam Pope-Lau, a Grade 4 student at Glenlyon Norfolk School, is aiming to win Canada’s History for Kids’ Young Citizens contest, with his project on Jimmy Chicken.

“It’s a real honour to be doing this,” Pope-Lau said.

He’s the only student from south Vancouver Island in the Young Citizens competition. The winners will receive a trip to Ottawa to attend a national history forum.

Pope-Lau’s project, which landed him in the top three of last month’s South Vancouver Island Regional Heritage Fair, tells the story of Jimmy Chicken, a First Nations man who lived on Mary Tod Island — or Jimmy Chicken Island — more than 120 years ago.

“I just wanted to show people how important reconciliation and coming together is, and show people the history that they don’t know yet,” Pope-Lau said.

Read also: ‘No act of reconciliation is too small,’ says B.C. advanced education minister

Pope-Lau can see Mary Tod Island from his house and his class paddles to the island every year. One of the most interesting things he said he learned about Jimmy Chicken was about Chicken’s son, Jimmy Johnny. According to Pope-Lau, Johnny was a Songhees council member in 1911.

Pope-Lau spoke with Songhees Elder Joan Morris, Oak Bay Heritage Commission member Marion Cummings and Royal B.C. Museum curator Grant Keddie as part of the project.

A poem Pope-Lau performed, titled “Spirits of the Salish Sea,” with the project was dedicated to Morris.

“I learned how important it is to listen to Elders, and the role they have in our communities in Canada. History really matters!” Pope-Lau wrote in his entry to the Young Citizens contest. “We need to listen to everyone’s stories with an open heart.”

Winners of the Young Citizens competition are determined by a panel of judges as well as a public vote.

Voting opened Tuesday and will remain open until July 1.


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