What is “The Great Trek” Festival?

2019 marked the inaugural year for the Great Trek Festival. The festival combines two events, the Fall Classic and Arts’ 20 Relay with the goal of encouraging more of the UBC community to learn about the history of The Great Trek and the traditional and ancestral territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people that UBC’s Vancouver campus is located on.

In 1922 the UBC student body was growing quickly and desperately needed more space. After collecting over 50,000 signatures the students embarked on a march from downtown Vancouver to Point Grey (now the UBC Vancouver campus) known as The Great Trek.

Archival photo of the Great Trek march.

I had a chance to catch up with relay race participants Randy, Jalen, Rob, and Gary to get their perspective of the event. I asked them about their thoughts leading up to the race and how the new festival provided more insight into UBC history.

Relay race participants Randy, Jalen, Rob, and Gary.

Q. What do you know about the history behind The Great Trek?

Rob: Prior to the event I wasn’t aware of the context behind The Great Trek. It wasn’t until I got involved with the event where I started to find out about the history behind the event and what it was trying to promote.

Randy: I remember looking up the event prior to signing up and saw that the page was describing The Great Trek as a pilgrimage of some sorts, led by UBC students. It was nice to see an event pay respects to UBC history.

Q. Can you describe your experience at the event?

Jalen: As this was my first time doing an event like this I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had a great time and enjoyed the race aspect of it, and I surprisingly did better than I expected.

Gary: The atmosphere at the event was great and everyone was enjoying themselves, whether they were running or not. The volunteers and staff made the event run smoothly and I will definitely be running again next year.

Q. How has this event helped you learn more about UBC’s history?

Jalen: As an indigenous person in Canada it was nice to see an event where it helped shine light onto the history of the land. It’s great to see that people have a growing interest in the land and continue to respect the traditions that are celebrated throughout the years.

Rob: Without the race labeled as “The Great Trek” I would never have thought to look into the history of the university. I think it is important to know why we are able to be where we are and the event sparked my interest to learn more.

Check out the other events from UBC Recreation!