The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)

Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

A new historical item featured online by the Royal B.C. Museum speaks to a time when immigrant communities were often unwelcome in Greater Victoria and beyond.

Now displayed in the museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection, is the tamba – Punjabi for mixed copper alloys – dining set that one man used on his trans-Pacific voyage from Punjab to B.C. in 1927. The dining set had originally been owned by Indar Singh Gill’s father, Naranjan Singh Gill, who was part of the first major wave of migration from Punjab in 1906.

Two decades later, Indar Singh Gill followed his father, bringing along the family heirloom. The dining set includes drinking glasses, a small water jug, dishes and a tray. Although rarely found today, they were commonly used by Sikh migrants on sea voyages across the Pacific. According to the museum, the dining set was indicative of caste and class sensibilities.

Indar’s wife, Bhagwant Kaur, and their two older children, Kalvan Gill and Kaldip Gill, joined Indar in Mission, B.C. in 1938. Kalvan went on to become an entrepreneur and Kaldip an English professor. The family preserved the dining set and donated it to the Royal B.C. Museum.

“Many immigrant communities experienced that era as racially volatile, socially fragile and fraught with imminent threats of expulsion, so these items strengthen our resolve to recollect our past so that future generations may understand their own particular histories with the richness that they deserve,” Dr. Satwinder Bains, director of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, said in a release.

READ ALSO: B.C. is not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Living in B.C. during the early 1900s could be extremely difficult for non-white people, and especially so for people of Asian decent. South Asians living in Canada were banned from voting and at different points were either charged a head tax for entering the country or weren’t allowed to come at all.

In 1908, regulations were adopted that said newcomers were only allowed into Canada if they made it from their home country in one continuous journey. According to the Challenging Racist ‘British Columbia’ report, in 1913 officials tried to stop a boat of newcomers from arriving in Victoria based on those regulations. A man named Husaln Rahlm, along with the Victoria Topaz Street Sikh temple and a lawyer, protested the decision and successfully argued their case in court. Fifty-five people from India were allowed in, but the next year the federal government introduced a blanket ban on Asian immigration to B.C.

So the dining set is more than a historical object, it represents an important point in time. It and 99 other interesting items can be viewed online at royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/100.

READ ALSO: Victoria museum releases more than 16,000 historical images of Indigenous life


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Greater VictoriaRoyal BC Museum

Just Posted

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens after accident at Taylor River Flats

Multi-vehicle crash had closed highway to west coast

Grade 12 graduates Jada Touchie, Timothy Masso and Brendan Brown are all smiles after receiving their Goodies for the Grads gift packs thanks to a small neighbourhood grant from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Secondary School grads set to parade through town

Family and friends can cheer on the Class of 2021 this Saturday, June 19 at 4:30 p.m.

From left, Ahousaht First Nation Hereditary Chief Richard George presents a $10,000 cheque to Tofino Hatchery manager Doug Palfrey alongside Tyler Huebner of TCH Contracting The funds will go towards rebuilding Cypre river Chinook. (Carallyn Bowes photo)
Tofino Hatchery receives $10K donation

Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society tackling massive drop in Chinook salmon stocks

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

This rendering shows the potential layout for a 40-unit staff housing cooperative being proposed by the Pac Rim Home Development Cooperative in Ucluelet. (Image from www.prhdc.ca)
Pac Rim Cooperative pitches staff housing project in Ucluelet

“We’re looking at it as if it’s like a resort for employees”

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

BC Ferries’ newest Island Class vessel is experiencing an issue with one of its thrusters off the Algerian coast. Photo courtesy patbaywebcam.com.
BC Ferries newest vessel having mechanical issues in Mediterranean

Island 4 will be repaired in Spain before crossing Atlantic

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

There were 255 babies born in Victoria in May 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pandemic baby boom makes for a busier Vancouver Island Father’s Day

Victoria’s 255 babies born in May up almost 10 per cent over last year

Most Read