Fate of “Gassy Jack” statue to be determined by city, business officials

Jun 19 2020, 11:04 am

The City of Vancouver will be working with Indigenous communities and the Gastown Business Improvement Association (BIA) to determine the future of the “Gassy Jack” statue.

The monument, which was installed in 1970 to commemorate John Deighton, was vandalized with red paint earlier this week.

The City is reaching out to Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations, Matriarchs, and Urban Indigenous leaders to “understand and coordinate dialogues” over the statue.

After consulting with them, as well as the Gastown BIA, they’ll identify the next steps to take over the future of the statue. The City says that the work is a necessary and “important first step,” with the end goal being the decolonizing of the area, as well as a commitment “towards reconciliation and decolonization.”

Deighton, who was attracted by the California gold rush in the mid-1800s, became a tax man and a steamboat pilot, according to the City. While he’s memorialized by a statue, however, some Indigenous women have been trying to tell the true story of Gassy Jack for some time.

A documentary called Red Woman Rising by Battered Women’s Support Services tells the story of Deighton and the women whose names were erased from history in place of his.

According to the documentary, Deighton was married to an Indigenous woman whose name has been lost to history. He then “purchased her 12-year-old niece Quahail-ya to act as his ‘wife.’”

“Connecting the dots between what happens to the land, happened to my women first. All across Turtle Island, the women have been commodified, we have been dehumanized, we have been hyper-sexualized, and we are hunted. We are murdered,” says Musqueam activist Audrey Siegl in the documentary.

“This is connected to Gassy Jack because he ran a bar that catered to loggers and the other men who were doing the work that destroyed and removed the trees, and my ancestor’s spaces, that catered to the men who violated my women, and Gassy Jack himself, married to a First Nations woman whose name is erased, deleted, forgotten.”

“His name is here, on land that was never his,” says Siegl.

With files from Rumneek Johal