News and Reviews

Feb. 28, 2014
Greg Nokes was interviewed by C-Span2’s Book TV on Massacred for Gold,

Learn about the massacre of over 30 Chinese miners in 1887 in "Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon." It recounts the events of the massacre from when the bodies were first discovered to the subsequent trial of six men and boys -- the youngest being 15 - over a year later. During this time, witnesses admitted to have little interest in convicting anyone for crimes against Chinese immigrants and they were found not guilty by a jury. A cover-up followed and the massacre was soon forgotten over the next 100 years until a Wallowa County clerk found the hidden records in an unused safe. Author R. Gregory Nokes, explores the details of the trial and what is says about the experience of Chinese immigrants living in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Greg and Candy at Chinese Massacre Cove

Greg and Candy at Chinese Massacre Cove in 2012
Photo by Deston Nokes

A granite memorial to honor the massacred Chinese miners was dedicated at Chinese Massacre Cove on June 22, 2012, which was the 125th anniversary of what the Lewiston Tribune called "an unforgiveable day.''

The full article by Tribune reporter Jennifer K Bauer:

CHINESE MASSACRE COVE, Ore. - With a ritual whisk, Master E-man whipped away the hatred and unhappiness that has hung in a forgotten pocket of Hells Canyon for 125 years.

The golden robes of the Taoists stood in bold contrast to the canyon's stark palette of tan, grey and muddy green. On a red blanket lay offerings to the spirits of the 34 Chinese miners murdered here in 1887 - legumes, nuts, rice, coins, wine, tea and elaborate paper lotus flowers.

No one was ever convicted of the crime, discovered when the miners' bullet- and axe-wounded bodies began washing up in Lewiston 65 miles down the Snake River. Only in the past five years has the incident come to national and international attention because of those among the more than 100 gathered Friday at the site.

The healing ceremony was part of Chinese Remembering, a Lewiston history conference in its fifth and final year, which has explored Chinese contributions in the Pacific Northwest. The dedication of a granite memorial honoring the murdered miners in English, Chinese and Nez Perce was an end for the conference, which has grown from a small gathering to a two-day event that drew Chinese-Americans from around the country.

"We're here to forgive the unforgivable today and that's a great thing," said Roger Amerman of Stites, who joined representatives of the Nez Perce Tribe at the ceremony.

The dedication began with a reading of the 11 known names of the miners. A bell sounded for the unknown. The names were read by R. Gregory Nokes, whose book "Massacred for Gold, The Chinese in Hells Canyon," was the first authoritative account of the murders and subsequent cover-up.

"This has been a big step toward providing some justice to the Chinese massacred here," Nokes, 75, said before the ceremony began. "We can recognize the crime and honor the victims. The healing goes on forever."

Chuimei Ho of Seattle is among those seeking healing. Ho went to China with her husband, Bennet Bronson, in search of the miner's origins. The two archaeologists began looking after the second Chinese Remembering conference.

"You just cannot stop and go on with your life as usual," Ho said of what she felt after learning of the miners' plight.

She and Bronson found the men's home village Xialiang, now Baiyun, but could not locate relatives. The village elders were very solemn when she told them the story of the miners, Ho said. They have asked for a record of Friday's dedication.

Ho also researched Lewiston's Beauk Aie Temple, one of the most intact Chinese temples in the Northwest. She believes the temple's wooden artifacts, dated 1888, were purchased by the Chinese community as a way to cope with the murders.

"The temple is more than a just a temple," she said. "That is their voice. They speak up in a different way. It really isn't Taoism. It's humanity. Just like today we rally behind a piece of rock."

Ho researched accounts of anti-Chinese violence in the West and believes the Hells Canyon massacre is no doubt one of the worst.

"Lewiston is a model case on how to resolve the differences even 100 years later," she said of Chinese Remembering. "Here the effort is initiated by non-Chinese. This is so beautiful and amazing. This is what true America is. This is what I believed when I came to this country."

The conference was started by Lewiston historians Lyle Wirtanen and Garry Bush in 2007. Wirtanen said the conference accomplished its goals of spreading Chinese history, retelling the massacre story and healing.

"We are so gratified that after five years it's come to this," Wirtanen said.

Marcus Lee, of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Portland, Ore., said he believes this is the only memorial dedicated to Chinese pioneers in the U.S.

Lee said some people have questioned the reasoning behind bringing up the dark past.

"We're not here looking for someone to blame," Lee said. "Memorials like this are teaching tools for Chinese-Americans and new immigrants coming from Taiwan and elsewhere. They need to know what those early immigrants endured to have what we have now. ... We want our history in the curriculums and taught in school just like other groups. It's part of history."

Master E-man ended the ceremony by inviting the crowd to offer green leaf bundles of sticky rice to the fish of the river so they would leave the spirits of the deceased alone. He and his attendants learned of the conference from others in the Chinese-American community and offered to come at their own expense from Los Angeles. While other healing ceremonies have been conducted at the cove, this was the first true Taoist ceremony, the religion of the slain miners.

"We'd like to have forgiveness course over and have love and peace for the world," Master E-Man said after the ceremony about why he came to Idaho.

"Even though they still have something they can't release, they feel better now," he said of the spirits at Chinese Massacre Cove.

Chinese Remembering was sponsored by the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Lewis-Clark State College and the Center for Arts & History, and the Idaho Humanities Council.

Other comments on the dedication here and here.

The Oregonian writes that: "Massacred for Gold'' author works to ensure that a dark chapter in Oregon history is never forgotten.
Spokane Public Television highlights Chinese Remembering gathering in Lewiston.
Daily Astorian: Author shines light on Chinese presence in Oregon
Review by Marie Rose Wong: Massacred for Gold "reads like a who-dunnit.''

Barry Lopez on racism in the West:

Acclaimed northwest author Barry Lopez has written an enormously revealing article on racism in the West that appears in the fall 2010 issue of The Georgia Review, the literary quarterly published at the University of Georgia.

Entitled “A Dark Light in the West: Racism and Reconciliation,’’ Lopez’ article traces the long history of racist attitudes and violent incidents that have scarred the history of Oregon and the West, but which are little-remembered today. Lopez gives credit to Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, for exposing one of the worst of the many racist crimes committed in the region.

Lopez writes, “Nokes . . . exposes, for example, the determination of some local residents to preserve, down to the present, a distorted version of their pioneer history, dismissing both the heinous nature of the crime and their ancestors’ anemic effort to arrest and charge the perpetrators.’’

Click here for a review of Lopez’ article by Oregonian book editor Jeff Baker—including information on how to obtain The Georgia Review.

» Learn more

The Dallas Morning News had a nice comment about Massacred for Gold on Nov. 14. There's also a new interview with Greg, which can be found here.

Posted on YouTube: Nokes reads from Massacred for Gold at Oregon Humanities event at Broadway Books in Portland. » View more

The Long Reach of an article in The Oregonian » Read more

Moscow-Pullman Daily News says author sees similarities in past treatment of Chinese immigrants, and attitudes toward undocumented Latino workers today

Medford Mail Tribune: Massacre of Chinese Haunts Author » Read more

Bellingham Herald: "Author uncovers whitewash of history" » Read more

In a Medford TV interview, Nokes says a "savage act of racial hatred'' explains the massacre. » Watch video

Author lectures on black mark in Oregon history » Read more

William Wong writes in a San Francisco Chronicle review that Nokes' pursuit of the massacre story is "breathtaking."

"A standout feature of "Massacred for Gold" is the author's unrelenting search for documents that had been hidden by Wallowa County officials who didn't want to embarrass descendants of the killers.

"Nokes' journeys from Portland to rugged eastern Oregon, trying to retrace the experience of the 1880s, are breathtaking. They evoke the beauty and desolation of an area where white pioneers and Chinese gold seekers had to brave intimidating elements to try to better their respective lives, only to collide violently.''

Nokes reads at Broadway Books in Portland, posted on You Tube. » Watch video

OSU Press book recounts Chinese massacre
Oregonian columnist John Terry writes that Nokes' pursuit of the massacre story "took him to the sweltering depths of Hells Canyon, the vast documents of the State Archives in Salem and the dank recesses of the Enterprise courthouse. In a dark cornerof the basement he found the original trial record.'' » Read more

Northwest Asian Weekly of Seattle:
The success of Massacred for Gold "goes to show that books that are thick with facts and information don't have to be left for university students in ethnic studies classes. These books should be part of the mainstream, part of the popular nonfiction novel genre. (It) "is a book of American history and is especially valuable as it details an event that is virtually unknown...." » Read more

Reading Local and Rose City Reader:
"While Massacred for Gold has regional ties, Nokes puts the tragedy in national context. Any reader interested in the experience of 19th Century Chinese immigrants or the development of the American West will find this story fascinating.'' » Read more

Massacred for Gold on Oregonian's Top Ten books list » Read more

Rose City Reader likes Nokes' personal touch » Read more

Uncovering a 120-year-old massacre
The Bend Bulletin’s David Jasper talks with R. Gregory Nokes about the process of writing "Massacred for Gold." » Read more.

The Asian Reporter's Book Reviews
In 1887, more than 30 Chinese gold miners were murdered on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon in one of the most heinous crimes in state history. Yet for more than a century the massacre was covered up and forgotten — until seasoned reporter and amateur detective R. Gregory Nokes took on the case. » Read more

Anatomy of a (120-year-old) mass murder
Willamette Week, Oct. 14, 2009 » Read more

"Massacred for Gold" and "Pedaling Revolution" are selling well.
The Oregonian, October 06, 2009 » Read more

More than gold seen behind massacre
Author R. Gregory Nokes peels back the veil of time in his historical work on the murders of 34 Chinese gold miners in Wallowa County — Walla Walla Union Bulletin, October 05, 2009. » Read more

The Oregonian reviews Massacred for Gold.
October 02, 2009 » Read more

Historians track Chinese history in Idaho
The Lewiston Tribune, July 18, 2009 » Read more

"Historical Interpretation of Chinese Sites in Hells Canyon" a Success
Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, August 3, 2008 » Read more

"A Most Daring Outrage" Murders at Chinese Massacre Cove,
1887 Oregon Historical Quarterly Vol. 107, Issue 3, Fall 2006 » Read more

Jetting up the Snake River
The Oregonian, August 24, 2003 » Read more

Chinese Miners Murdered
The New York Times, July 8, 1887 » Read more

 

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.