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[TIMELINE] Renaming Chinaman's Arch / Golden Spike / Transcontinental Railroad

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  • madchinaman
    Asian Americans railing against Chinaman s Arch Offensive term: Railroad workers descendents and other Asian Americans lobby for new name By Kristen Moulton
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 16, 2005
      Asian Americans railing against Chinaman's Arch
      Offensive term: Railroad workers' descendents and other Asian
      Americans lobby for new name
      By Kristen Moulton
      kmoulton@...
      http://www.sltrib.com/ci_3021342?rss


      -

      If one wants to express their respective opinion on renaming the
      Chinaman's Arch, contact the people that are listed below:

      Cobern will be taking comments or concerns about the renaming of
      Chinaman's Arch until Sept. 30 at P.O. Box 897, Brigham City, Utah,
      or by e-mail to melissa_cobern@.... The Utah organization would
      like input from Chinese Americans with ancestors who worked on the
      railroad. Send comments to jeannywang@....

      Info on the Transcontinental Rairoad
      http://www.untraveledroad.com/USA/Utah/BoxElder/GoldenSpike/3NSign.ht
      m
      http://www.untraveledroad.com/USA/Utah/BoxElder/GoldenSpike/22SSign.h
      tm

      -


      Karen Kwan doesn't know the full name of her great-great-great-great
      grandfather, an immigrant from Canton, China, who helped build
      America's transcontinental railroad.

      But she knows this: He and the thousands of other Chinese who
      blasted their way through the Sierra Nevada and laid track through
      the deserts of Nevada and northern Utah deserve more respect than
      the name "Chinaman's Arch" given a limestone formation at Golden
      Spike National Historic Site.

      "Would I want my great-grandfather called 'Chinaman?' " asks
      Kwan, who teaches psychology at Salt Lake Community College. "It
      elicits these images of the bucktoothed ancient. . . . They're
      really negative images of the foreigner, the inscrutable."

      The Utah Organization of Chinese Americans has submitted an
      application to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names seeking to change
      the arch's name to Chinese Arch.

      "It's a way for us to pay homage to those who sacrificed a great
      deal," says Michael Kwan, Karen's brother and a justice court judge
      in Taylorsville.

      The National Park Service does not oppose the name change, and
      Box Elder County commissioners support it. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.,
      whose office is handling such matters until the first-year governor
      reconstitutes the Utah Committee on Geographic Names, has not yet
      weighed in.

      If there is no opposition, the U.S. panel could vote on the
      application by year's end, according to Roger Payne, executive
      secretary of the Reston, Va.-based board.

      The federal panel doesn't really care what names are used for
      geographic features. It just wants to ensure consistency for public
      safety, Payne says. However, the board does encourage applications
      to replace disparaging names.

      And Chinaman's Arch is plainly that, says Jeanny Wang, chairwoman
      of the Utah Organization of Chinese Americans.

      "Our understanding was the arch was named in honor of the Chinese
      railroad workers. This is a term that does not honor them." Just how
      the 6-foot-by-20-foot rock arch came by its name is not recorded,
      says Melissa Cobern, chief ranger at the Golden Spike National
      Historic Site, 25 miles northwest of Brigham City.

      Area residents in their 80s and 90s tell Cobern the arch has had
      that name for as long as they can remember. It may have been named
      for the 11,000-plus Chinese workers who drove the teams, drilled
      through rock and hammered the spikes for 700 miles of Central
      Pacific rail from Sacramento, Calif., to Promontory. They
      outnumbered the CP's Irish laborers by 9 to 1.

      The rail met the Union Pacific line from the east on May 10,
      1869, at what is now the 2,700-acre national historic site, opening
      the West to commerce.

      Or, says Cobern, the arch might commemorate the Chinese who later
      lived in nearby camps and maintained the rails for Central Pacific.

      "Some of that has been lost to history," Cobern says.

      Kwan says she first became aware of the arch's name during the
      130th celebration of the completion of the transcontinental
      railroad. The arch is marked with an interpretive sign on the east
      motor route through the historic site.

      In the years since that 1999 celebration, several books have been
      published highlighting the contributions of the "faceless" Chinese
      workers.

      The historic site itself has created an exhibit that includes
      Chinese coins, gaming pieces, a ginger container and soy sauce jar.
      Previously, only a plaque commemorated the laborers.

      In 2001, the Chinese American community began planning a
      campaign to change the arch's name, Kwan says.

      The Organization of Chinese Americans staged its national
      convention in Salt Lake City, and hundreds of members drove to
      Promontory to visit the historic site.

      At the suggestion of a member, who is a photographer, they
      arrayed themselves around the train engine for a group photo, in
      solidarity with the Chinese workers who 132 years earlier were
      excluded from the pictures marking the historic moment.

      Chinese workers were present May 10, 1869, and indeed hammered
      the last spikes partway so visiting dignitaries could complete the
      task easily. Before the celebration was over, they were cheered in
      the rail car of the Central Pacific's project superintendent, who
      invited several Chinese to dine with him.

      An estimated 1,300 Chinese workers had died in the dangerous,
      four-year endeavor. Some froze in the mountains of California, some
      fell to their deaths as they were suspended from ropes to chisel
      away at rock and others perished in the black-powder blasts to
      remove rock.

      But the famous photo from that day does not show the Chinese,
      Kwan notes.

      The Chinese American community hopes the arch soon will have a
      new name, though a proposal to change the name of Chink Peak in
      Idaho to China Peak took two years because of opposition.

      "We're not counting our blessings yet," Kwan says.


      =======================


      Group wants arch to be renamed Chinese Arch
      By Lynze Wardle
      Standard-Examiner staff
      lwardle@...
      http://www2.standard.net/standard/news/61404/


      One of Northern Utah's natural arches may receive a new, more
      culturally sensitive name.

      Chinaman's Arch is a 15-foot natural limestone formation located at
      the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Although much of its
      history is unknown, the arch is thought to be named for Chinese
      laborers who helped build the Central Pacific and Union Pacific
      railroads during the 1860s.

      In April, the Utah Organization of Chinese Americans submitted an
      application to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to rename the
      structure "Chinese Arch."

      "We want to commemorate the work Chinese laborers did, but without
      using a derogatory term," organization chairwoman Jeanny Wong said.
      The National Park Service has spent the last several months trying
      to research the history of the arch and gather input from residents
      in nearby communities. The agency will conduct a public survey on
      the name change before submitting an official statement to the U.S.
      Board of Geographic Names, the federal body in charge of
      establishing the official names of cities and geographic features.
      Golden Spike chief ranger Melissa Cobern said the board's final
      decision will probably be made by August 2006, and will hinge
      largely on the recommendations of Golden Spike rangers.

      So far, Cobern said, community response to the proposed name change
      has been mostly positive.

      In a recent Box Elder County Commission meeting, both commissioners
      in attendance, Suzanne Rees and Clark Davis, offered to write
      letters supporting the name change.

      Brigham City resident Richard Felt, 64, has spent the last 30 years
      playing characters in re-enactments of the Last Spike Ceremony at
      Promontory Point. Felt said at first he was reluctant to support a
      change in history, but he now feels a new name would be more
      appropriate.

      "It's meant to honor the Chinese, not hurt their feelings," Felt
      said. "You wouldn't name Black History Month something that is
      derogatory to African-Americans."

      Cobern will be taking comments or concerns about the renaming of
      Chinaman's Arch until Sept. 30 at P.O. Box 897, Brigham City, Utah,
      or by e-mail to melissa_cobern@.... The Utah organization would
      like input from Chinese Americans with ancestors who worked on the
      railroad. Send comments to jeannywang@....


      ===========


      Chinaman's Arch
      http://www.nps.gov/gosp/tour/arch.html


      This limestone formation, known as Chinaman's Arch, has become a
      memorial to the thousands of Chinese who helped build the
      transcontinental railroad. Because of labor shortages in California
      Chinese we employed experimentally by the Central Pacific Railroad
      in 1865. The proved to be excellent workers, and by 1868 over 10,000
      were working on the railroad.
      Many of the Chinese remained with the Central Pacific after the
      completion of the railroad at Promontory. Travelers often noticed
      their tents along the route. Apparently one such camp was here
      during the 1880 s when this arch was given its special name.


      ====================


      Commissioners Support Renaming Chinaman's Arch to Chinese
      http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=102474


      BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) -- Box Elder County commissioners have
      agreed to support a group's efforts to have Chinaman's Arch at the
      Golden Spike National Historic Site renamed as Chinese Arch.

      The 15-foot natural limestone formation is thought to be named for
      Chinese laborers who helped build the Central Pacific and Union
      Pacific railroads during the 1860s.

      In April, the Utah Organization of Chinese Americans submitted an
      application to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to rename the
      structure.

      "We want to commemorate the work Chinese laborers did, but without
      using a derogatory term," organization chairwoman Jeanny Wong said.
      The National Park Service has spent the last several months trying
      to research the history of the arch and gather input from residents
      in nearby communities.

      The agency will conduct a public survey on the name change before
      submitting an official statement to the U.S. Board of Geographic
      Names, which establishes official names of cities and geographic
      features.

      Golden Spike chief ranger Melissa Cobern said the board's final
      decision will probably be made by next August.
      Cobern said,community response to the proposed name change has been
      mostly positive.

      In a recent Box Elder County Commission meeting, both commissioners
      in attendance, Suzanne Rees and Clark Davis, offered to write
      letters supporting the name change.
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