Chinese Remembering 2012

Spokane Public Television highlights Chinese Remembering gathering in Lewiston.

Lewiston, Idaho, June 21-22

A memorial stone was dedicated June 22, 2012 to honor the nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners massacred in 1887 at Chinese Massacre Cove in Hells Canyon. It bears the following inscription in three languages, Chinese, English, and Nez Perce:

Chinese Massacre Cove
Site of the 1887 massacre of
as many as 34 Chinese gold miners
No one was held accountable

The Dedication Ceremony
The Dedication Ceremony
Lewiston, Idaho, June 21-22, 2012

A diverse gathering of about 135 people travelled in four jetboats from Lewiston for the impressive and colorful dedication. It included participation from the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho and from Chinese American communities in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Bettie Luke of Seattle and Master E-man, a Daoist priest from Los Angeles, presided.

The memorial is on a bluff overlooking the Snake River 65 miles south of Lewiston. The five-acre site, surrounded by the steep basalt walls of Hells Canyon, was designated as Chinese Massacre Cove in 2005 by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. The area was part of the traditional homeland of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce tribe.

The year 2012 marked the 125th anniversary of the massacre in which a gang of northeastern Oregon horse thieves ambushed and killed as many as thirty-four defenseless Chinese miners. Before fleeing with the miners' gold, the killers threw the bodies into the Snake River. Some of the bodies floated north to Lewiston where the crime was discovered. Three of the killers fled and were never apprehended; three others were charged with murder but found innocent at trial by a white jury.

A full account of the crime and its aftermath can be found in Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, published by Oregon State University in 2009.

The memorial was a project of the Chinese Massacre Memorial Committee. It was made possible by donations from Chinese American organizations, from supporters throughout the nation, and by generous in-kind contributions from Garlinghouse Memorials of Lewiston, River Quest Excursions of Lewiston, and Columbia Basin Helicopters of Baker City, Oregon.

The committee extends its thanks to the contributors, as well as to the U.S. Forest Service, which provided the necessary permits for the memorial on federal land.
The committee also thanks the sponsors of the Chinese Remembering gathering, under whose auspices the dedication was held. These included the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Lewis-Clark State College, the LCSC Center for Arts & History, and the Idaho Humanities Council.

(See the news and reviews page for news coverage of the dedication)

Chinese Remembering 2011
   Lewiston, Idaho June 23-24

We had our most successful Chinese Remembering conference yet in Lewiston. This was our fourth year and the conference draws a larger audience every year. The conference remembers the nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners massacred on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon in 1887. It brings together historians and others to talk of the Chinese who once lived and worked in the region during the gold-mining era in the 1800s. The conference has become a major venue for collecting knowledge of the Chinese history in the Pacific Northwest.

We had 129 for the lectures on June 23, and a capacity-challenging 91 for the day-long jetboat trip into Hells Canyon to Chinese Massacre Cove on June 24. Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America, and the cliffs along the 65-mile trip up the Snake River to the massacre site are spectacular.

This year we moved the conference to larger facilities at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. Attendees came from Florida, Minnestoa, North Carolina and California, as well as from Oregon, Wahington and Idaho. More from Oregon attended than in years past, including a group from Portland's Chinese-American community, and a large contingent from Wallowa County, where the massacre occurred.

Chinese Remembering 2011Priscilla Wegars of the Asian-American Cooperative Collection at the University of Idaho led a traditional Chinese healing ceremony in front of the Chinese-built walls at the cove We also heard Nez Perce elder Alan Pinkham talk of the circumstances behind the 1877 Nez Perce war. The jetboat trip passes the famous Dug Bar crossing where Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce across the Snake River after they were forced out of their Wallowa Valley homeland. All of the lands in the area once belonged to the Nez Perce..

A very special lecture and slide presentation was given by Chuimei Ho of The Chinese in North America Research Committee in Bainbridge Island, Washington, who has developed profiles of 26 Chinese women who once lived and worked in Idaho, some of them as prostitutes, which was the only way many could earn a living..

Another highlight was hearing Gareth Tabor sing his moving song, "Deep Creek.'' He sang it twice, once at the conference and a second time during a lunch break at China Garden at a beautiful site in Hells Canyon. Gareth's song is heard on this page.

We were also pleased to hold a reception at the newly restored LCSC Center for Arts and History in downtown Lewiston where the altar and altar furnishings from the old Lewiston Chinese Temple are once again on display. The center is in a beautifully restored pioneer-era bank building that was damaged in a fire two years ago. It is very much worth seeing by anyone visiting Lewiston.

A major new development in our program is that we have formed a committee to initiate planning for a memorial to the massacred miners at Chinese Massacre Cove. Many have asked us in the past if we are going to do this. And the time has come. We will work with the U.S. Forest Service to make it happen. We will have more on this as the planning evolves.

Special thanks goes to Lyle Wirtanen and Garry Bush, both of Lewiston, who organize this annual event, and, of course, to the sponsors: the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude; Lewis-Clark State College, the LCSC Center for Arts and History, the Governor's Lewis Clark Trail Committee, the Idaho Humanities Council, the Idaho State Historical Society, River Quest Excursions, the Hells Canyon Visitors Bureau, the Lewis Clark Chamber of Commerce and the Mandarin Pine Restaurant in Lewiston

We almost certainly will hold the conference again next year.

Greg Nokes

Chinese Remembering 2010

Bettie Sing LukeThe third annual Chinese Remembering conference was held in Lewiston, Idaho, June 24-25, 2010. The first day was occupied with lectures about the Chinese immigrant experience in the Pacific Northwest, followed the second day by a trip by jetboat into Hells Canyon to Chinese Massacre Cove where a healing ceremony was conducted for the nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners massacred there in 1877. The site is sixty-five miles south of Lewiston.

Lectures were given by Drs. Chuimei Ho and Bennett Bronson, co-directors of the Chinese in North America Research Committee in Bainbridge Island, Washington; Idaho State archaeologist Dr. Ken Reid; Dr. Priscilla Wegars of the Asian American Cooperative Collection in at the University of Idaho, and R. Gregory Nokes, author of Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon.

Visit the gallery Visit the Chinese Remembering Gallery »


Chinese in North American Research Committee (CINARC) suggests in new report that Lewiston's Beuk Aie Temple built as memorial to the massacre victims. CINARC website includes temple photos.

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Northwest Asian Weekly article on the Chinese Remembering conference

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 Deep Creek, the Song

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Gareth Tabor, a Lake Oswego ophthalmologist and member of the Back Alley String Band, sings "Deep Creek," his new song about the 1887 massacre of nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners at Chinese Massacre Cove in Hells Canyon. The copyrighted song is used here with Tabor's permission.



I guess if they had killed 31 white men, something would have been done about it, but none of the jury knew the Chinamen or cared much about it, so they turned the men loose.”

— George S. Craig, who discovered some of the bodies of the murdered Chinese miners.