100 Mile House Sikh Society

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Introduction

The 100 Mile House Sikh Society was founded in the early 1970s by the local Sikh community (at the time, 100 Mile House and its surrounding area was home to numerous Sikh families). The 100 Mile House Gurdwara was built through the donations of the local Sikh community, as well as from donations from Sikh's and other Sikh temple societies throughout the province. Donations were not only monetary, other forms of donating included: labour, materials and supplies, appliances, furniture, and fixtures.

The two story Gurdwara (completed in 1979) was built not only to serve as a religious gathering place, but also a place for the Sikh community to gather. Plans were in-place to expand the Gurdwara to the adjacent land (also owned by the Sikh Society). Plans included a play area for kids, and a community garden.

The 1980's to the early 2000's

In the mid 1980s two sawmill closures (the industry employing most Sikhs in 100 Mile House) shut down, forcing many families to leave, mostly to the Greater Vancouver region.

For nearly two and a half decades the Gurdwara was operated by the remaining four Sikh families. During this time, the Gurdwara did employ a number of different priests; however, with a dismal congregation priests did not stay long. The two biggest events for the Gurdwara were Vaisakhi (each April) and Guru Nanak's birth (November). Each year a three-day kund path was held for both events. Here priests would come from across BC to assist in reading the Sri Guru Granth Sahib from start to finish, non-stop. Invitations were sent to the Sikh families that had left 100 Mile, and the events would gain a respectable attendance.

Vandalism

With the migration of the Sikh population out of 100 Mile House, the remaining four families were not enough of a presence to educate the community on the Sikh religion, it's teachings, and the importance of a temple. A lack of education led to ignorance which grew to hate and intolerance by some of 100 Mile House's citizens. In the early 1990s a telephone call from the priest to a local Sikh was placed to inform of a break-in at the Gurdwara. Police were notified and the Sikh families gathered at the Gurdwara.

Upon arrival, the Gurdwara was found to be significantly damaged. Broken windows, significant water damage to both floors, broken doors and fixtures were the least of the damage. A damaged Sri Guru Granth Sahib was found with pages torn out and glass lodged into its spine - this was a devastating blow to the Sikh community, not only locally but world-wide as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the embodiment of the 10 Sikh Gurus and is to be treated as such.

Sikhs from around the province showed support as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was cremated, and the Gurdwara re-built. The assailants were caught, high school teenagers, and leaders of the Sikh community chose for them to write an essay on the Sikh religion and its teachings as a form of punishment. The teens completed their essays while insurance covered the damage. However, the safety of the Gurdwara was compromised and intricate alarm systems were installed to prevent such an event from occurring again.

The Mid 2000's

Not long after the vandalism, the 100 Mile Sikh Community, small in numbers, decided to no-longer have a priest and the Gurdwara was to be locked-up with the exception of Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak's birthday. During these events the Gurdwara continued to open every year for a kund path with invitations continuing to be sent out to the original Sikh population.

The town of Williams Lake, an hour north of 100 Mile House with a large Sikh population, played a significant role in assisting with these events, as did priests from the Lower Mainland. Sikhs from Kamloops, Quesnel, Lillooet, Prince George, and Kelowna would also frequent such events.

At this time (2006–2010) the second generation Sikhs in 100 Mile and Williams Lake graduated high-school and left the towns to pursue higher education - this reduced the population; however, there was still a significant base of Sikhs in Williams Lake.

At the same time a sawmill in Williams Lake (a major employer of Sikhs) ceased operations. This forced much of the Sikh population to move to new cities in search of new employment. This was a major blow to the Williams Lake Sikh community (which has two Gurwara's) and the 100 Mile Sikh Community.

The Gurdwara today

From the mid-2000s to present day, several Sikh families have made 100 Mile House their home, while others have left. However, the original four families are still there and still continue to open the Gurdwara every Vaisakhi and for the birth of Guru Nanak. It is nothing short of a miracle that for over 30 years this Gurdwara has continued to operate this way and have successful kund paths each year.

With the closure of the Williams Lake saw-mill it has become increasingly difficult to gain a large attendance (especially for the November kund path).

The 100 Mile Sikh society is aging, and the board is now all in their senior years. The success of this Gurdwara, and many others around the province with similar stories, is dependent on the support of Sikhs from other communities.

External links