Lecture     Series: Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project

Chinese Tunnels: Myth or Reality?

Free and open to the public
Thursday, July 18, 2019
6PM – 8PM

  • Free
  • Researchers
  • Teachers

Canyon City Community Center
123 Washington Street
Canyon City, Oregon 97820
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Event Type: LectureAudience(s): Researchers, TeachersLocation: Canyon City

Today, many communities in the American West, where Chinese people once lived, are rumored to have so-called "Chinese tunnels" under downtown buildings and streets. One such place is Pendleton, Oregon. Can "Chinese tunnels" be substantiated, whether through documentary research, oral histories, or other sources? If so, where do they exist, how were they used, and what is the proof of their existence? If not, are they myths with some basis in fact, such as basements that were subdivided or partitioned into smaller areas for use as businesses, living quarters, or opium-smoking establishments? Or, are they stereotypes like others such as "Chinese ovens" and "Chinese walls," wherein anything unexplainable, i.e., "mysterious," is attributed to the Chinese? This PowerPoint presentation investigates these questions, with the aim of providing a definitive answer to the question, "'Chinese Tunnels'": Myth or Reality?"

Ability Accommodation Information

This event provides the following accommodations:

  • Handicap Accessible

Priscilla Wegars, Ph.D., is a historian, historical archaeologist, artifact analyst, editor, and proofreader. She founded the University of Idaho's Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), a unique resource of artifacts, images, and documentary materials essential for understanding Asian American archaeological sites, economic contributions, and cultural history. She wrote Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer (2003; Honorable Mention for Idaho Book of the Year); Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp (2010); and As Rugged as the Terrain: CCC “Boys,” Federal Convicts, and World War II Alien Internees Wrestle with a Mountain Wilderness (2013; Co-Winner for Idaho Book of the Year). She edited Hidden Heritage: Historical Archaeology of the Overseas Chinese (1993) and co-edited Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestors (2005). Her current project is a full-length biography of Polly Bemis.

Priscilla Wegars

About the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project

The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is a collaborative multi-agency partnership dedicated to research and education on Oregon's early Chinese population. The project is currently working on sites from across the state, within investigations focusing on Chinese railroad workers associated with the Oregon and California Railroad and its early attempts to cross the Siskiyou mountains (1883-1884), gold mining in the Blue Mountains (1860-1910), and rural Chinese communities. The archaeological field school, public volunteer opportunities, and outreach events planned for the summer of 2019 make the project and its findings accessible to Oregonians with an interest in the underrepresented history of our state.

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