Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West

Exploring the uncovered heritage of early Chinese American pioneers over a seven-day tour

Browsing Posts tagged Wing Luke Asian Museum heritage trip

After panning for gold and touring a Dredge in Sumpter Valley, we ended Wednesday in Baker City, Ore.

We toured the Geiser Grand Hotel, where proprietor Barbara Sidway and local historian Gary Dielman talked about this city’s place in Western history and the many immigrants who arrived during the 19th century to find what everyone always wants – gold.

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Members of the Chinese Heritage Tour started the Tuesday portions of the 2010 voyage by taking a guided tour of the Wing Luke Museum – including the boarding rooms and meeting area above the ground level.

The boarding rooms of the Freeman Hotel were a place where immigrants could stay before going to their next destination. Many Chinese immigrants would save their money and move to other areas in Seattle, such as Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley, when they could.

The Freeman Hotel also gave them a chance to be around those who spoke the Toisan dialect. The East Kong Yick Building – The Wing’s home – also has a community meeting room on the top floor.

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One of the best things about this year’s Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West - at least for me – is the number of interesting participants you can talk with at almost any moment.

Case in point: My afternoon chat with Tony Chinn, a 63-year-old resident of Seattle. In China, his relatives came from the Toisan, or Taishan, region of Guangdong province.

With the heat hovering in the 80s and 90s on Wednesday, some tour participants sought shade at the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area in Oregon.

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I forgot exactly how Stan Lou brought up the topic on Wednesday morning of keeping a journal to record his thoughts and observations of the 2010 Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West.

I think he knew I was keeping notes and taking pictures for this trip blog.

He mentioned that he recorded his impressions of the first day of travel – when the approximately 40 of us boarded a bus named “America” and headed east from Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum in search of places that Chinese American pioneers once lived and worked.

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In addition to operating this Chinese Heritage Tour blog, we’re fortunate enough to have a group of astute Chinese American youths join us to let the world know their insights about this journey through the West on Twitter.

Their short Tweets are humorous, thoughtful and to the point. So, please have a look at their Tweets, if you haven’t done so already. You’ll also find a link to Twitter in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

From left to right, the youths are: Helen, Qingci, MingFeng and King. Zhen is standing behind them. Oh, yes. They’re also helping load and unload luggage on the bus.

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It’s fitting that the shirts participants on the Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West are wearing reflect an Asian American or Chinese theme.

Case in point: One tour member, a man, was wearing this shirt with three Chinese characters. It translates to: “Toisan man.” Toisan – or Taishan – is the area in southern China where many of the first Chinese immigrants to the United States once called home.

One youth sported a shirt from the International Examiner, a Seattle-based newspaper which focuses on Northwest Asian American communities.

There are hats, too.

“America” headed east Tuesday with a group of Chinese American history buffs, ready to pursue stories more than a century old from the Oregon hills.

Actually, the country itself was not moving on the highway.

The name sat on top of the chartered blue bus that left the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle and made its way east on Interstate 90, as the 2010 Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West - the moving part of it, that is - began.

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For more than an hour on Monday evening, the plates full of Chinese food – chicken with a ginger-and-green onion sauce, steamed fish with preserved olives, steamed egg - kept arriving at the Four Seas restaurant in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.

Maxine Chan, a Seattle food anthropologist, devised the recipes as part of the 2010 Chinese Heritage Tour which the Wing Luke Museum and the USDA Forest Service are sponsoring.

She stood before about 90 guests and gave an overview of each dish – and how immigrants from the Toisan area in southern China brought the food they had known in the fields and rolling hills from their homeland to the American West. The kick-off meal to the 2010 Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West had drawn people to the table.

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If you’re driving on a highway or backroad in the coming seven days in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada and spot a bus full of people sporting these tan baseball caps with green lettering, please give us a friendly wave.

If you see us in person, please say hello. We’ll respond in kind – in English, Cantonese, the Taishan – or Toisan – dialect of southern China and Mandarin.

We’re not a new group of conservation corps workers. We’re a group that left Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum on Tuesday. We like history. For many of us, our relatives left the Taishan – or Toisan – region decades ago.

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