Krebs photo (1910), Vancouver Public Library. Special Collections, VPL 14264.

The Rocky Mountain community of Golden, BC is an example of a large community of Sikh sawmill workers outside of the lower mainland of British Columbia in the earliest days of South Asian immigration.

The 1911 and 1921 Censuses of Canada record names of South Asian sawmill and railway workers in Golden, though some in the community think that migration began much earlier. The earliest arrivals are said to have come from the United States by steamship on the Columbia River. The Golden Historical Society – located in the remote mountain community – believes a Gurdwara was built in 1890. If true, this would be the first in North America. [1]

The 1921 Census of Canada showed 20 men living in a “Lodging House owned by the Lumber Company for Hindoo crew” at the Columbia River Lumber Company in Golden, BC. The 12-year old son of one of the workers is identified as a student. The earliest arrived in Canada in 1906. Census of Canada, (1921). https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?app=Census1921&op=img&id=e002870834

The original Gurdwara was built on land allotted by The Columbia River Lumber Co., built among bunkhouses that Sikhs used for their living quarters. The Gurdwara was housed in a wooden building with a Sikh emblem and a Nishan Sahib flag installed on the exterior. [2]

Local historians say the early Sikh community in Golden was “very friendly, hard-working and well-respected”. [3]A different opinion was shared in 1908 by the local newspaper.

“About seventy-five Hindoos left the city last week for different points on the coast. We wish the rest of them would take the notion.” [4]

When fire destroyed Columbia River Lumber sawmill in 1927, the first generation of South Asians in Golden left the community and the Gurdwara was abandoned.

In 1955, a new South Asian community was established in Golden. In 1981 another Gurdwara was built, this time not on mill property. The lumber and labour was donated by an arrangement with sawmill owners.

“They asked the workers to work on the weekends for free and they could work the rest of the 5 days on Gurdwara construction. Because of them, we could get the lumber for free… People did a lot of sewa (community service).” [5]

  1. Golden & District Historical Society, Kinbasket Country: The Story of Golden and the Columbia Valley, (1972), 57.
  2. Harbans Lal, "Golden City Gurdwara was First Indian Shrine in North America", Canadian Bazaar (June 13, 2013), https://www.thecanadianbazaar.com/golden-city-gurdwara-was-first-indian-shrine-in-north-america/
  3. Colleen Palumbo, Golden Memories (Golden: Golden & District Historical Society, 2000), 94-95.
  4. The Golden Times, November 18, 1908, 4.
  5. South Asian Studies Institute, UFV. (2018, June 28). Golden, BC Stories - Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project, YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfbXEenlwnM&feature=youtu.be


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