Hells Canyon Massacre 1887

Deep Creek (above)— located along the Oregon side of the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, was the stage of an epic mishap. Chinese immigrant miners once used this area. They found it as a convenient place to camp out while they mined gold in Hell’s Canyon. Around May of 1887, 34 Chinese miners were massacred at this very location. The culprits? Seven horse thieves. Every man camped at the location was killed. Some victims were shot down from the cliffs; others were slaughtered by attackers along the river. One Chinese man tried to escape in a boat after the criminals had ran out of ammunition. The horse thieves chased him down and finished him off with a rock. It was said that the Chinese had very little weaponry to fight back during the surprise attack. One man had a pistol, but was only able to fire six shots before running out of ammo. The bodies of the victims were tossed into the river, and their gold dust stolen. The amount of gold they had mined estimated to be between $4,000-5,000, an absolute fortune by the standards of the time. Three of the seven horse thieves were arrested and charged with murder. One of them was only fifteen years old. The others fled and were never seized. The three that were arrested stood trial and were eventually discharged, even with eyewitness testimony. It wasn’t long before the horrendous crime was nearly forgotten. The seven horse thieves had gotten away with the crime of the century. In 2005, the area was renamed the Chinese Massacre Cove.

Depicted above is a Chinese gold miner, mining the river. Anti-Chinese sentiment was very high in the west during the late nineteenth century. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, which made it impossible for the Chinese to become U.S. citizens. It seemed to be part of an American movement to eliminate the Chinese from American life and culture. As soon as the Gold Rush began (after the construction of railroads) the Chinese provided cheap labor for mining. This stirred up more racial hatred towards them, as they were blamed for causing a decrease in wages for the other groups involved in mining (Europeans, Americans, etc.). The details of this full story of this tragedy are forever lost in history. However, we know that this was an era of American history where justice was denied to the most deserving of victims, simply because of their race. We are lucky to live in a generation where this is much less likely to happen.

The Philippine-American War 1899-1902

The Philippine American war was considered by some as America’s first “true” colonial war as a world power, and it’s first imperialistic conflict. The war succeeded the Spanish American war, in which the Americans defeated Spain and purchased the Philippines from them (along with Puerto Rico and several other islands). The Filipinos had already been fighting a bloody revolution against Spain to begin with, and the Americans came along with imperialistic intentions. The Filipinos, indeed, had no intention of becoming a colony of yet another imperialist power.

In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo (left), with the help of General Meritt from the United States, led Filipino revolutionary forces in the Battle of Manila (not to be confused with the Battle of Manila Bay, in which Commodore George Dewey led U.S. forces to a dominating victory over Spain, in the opening battle of the Spanish-American War). The war resulted in surrender of the Spanish army, and Aguinaldo had intentionally been left out of the negotiations. Tensions rose between Filipino and American forces because the Filipinos had looked at the Americans as liberators against the Spanish imperialists. But it turned out that the United States simply wanted the Philippine islands as their own colony. On June 2, 1899, war was officially declared between the Philippines and the United States. The United States troop strength averaged about 40,000 men and peaked at about 74,000 at one point of the war. There were a total of 126,468 U.S. men that served in this war. In comparison, the Philippine forces included about 80,000-100,000 total Filipino men, with very limited weapons and ammunition.

Especially compared to the United States. Above is an image of the U.S. marine battling against the Filipinos. So, the Filipinos were pretty much getting owned in the war, up until 1900—when the Filipino war strategy was shifted to guerilla warfare. Where the Filipinos began to control most of the battles with their expertise of their native geography. This strategy was used to ultimately fight the Americans to a stalemate and force them to withdraw from the war. In fact, the Filipinos dominated so much, that President McKinley actually considered withdrawing at the beginning of the guerilla warfare stage. As the war continued, however, this only encouraged the American soldiers to act more ruthlessly than ever.

General Jacob H. Smith ordered "kill anyone over the age of ten" during the war.

During the official war years, 4,196 Americans died from either combat or disease. There was an estimated 20,000 Philippine military deaths, and between 250,000 and 1,000,000 civilians. This includes people killed by war, malnutrition, and cholera.

Enough about the war itself--the aftermath has strongly affected Filipino culture (in a way that I'm not sure is good or bad). Being an American colony, the Philippines was then "modernized" to United States standards. Because Filipinos were considered "savage children" compared to the Americans, the American's had to fulfil their duty of "cleaning" the Filipinos. The Filipinos were basically forced to assimilate into American culture. I guess that, eventually, this helped the Philippines gain independence (almost 50 years later). This reminds me of when I went to the Philippines when I was six. It was really easy for me to communicate to everyone there because everyone spoke English. And I think that's now part of Filipino culture, because every Filipino I know knows how to speak English (for the most part). I think that is an important part of a nation's culture, because it is the way in which they communicate. Filipinos are also seen as closely related to Spanish culture, because they were once ruled by them. Many words in tagalog are similar/exactly the same in Spanish, like "sombrero." However, Filipino culture still maintained a lot of originality, for instance--their food. No food is more fatty or greasy than Filipino food.


The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, as we have seen, affected Chinese Immigrants from coming into the United States for decades. Ironically enough however, the fourteenth amendment is supposed to keep Asian-Americans safe from losing their rightful chance from becoming naturalized citizens. Wong Kim Ark, paralleling the tragic Queen Liliuokalani, revealed the lack of correlation between what is law and the discriminatory actions taken against Asian-Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Fransisco to Chinese immigrants--although his parents would never have the chance to become U.S. citizens, he was awarded citizenship simply by birth. As a young man, he left California for China on what was supposed to be a temporary trip. However at his return in 1895, Ark was detained by customs, despite having been born and raised in San Fransisco, claiming his Chinese ancestry made him Chinese national and not in fact American.

Wong Kim Ark's dilemma got taken all the way to Supreme Court, where the main question being was: can "an American-born person of Chinese ancestry could constitutionally be denied U.S. citizenship and excluded from the country"? In a groundbreaking 6-2 decision by the court, they upheld the notion that despite his parents indeed being Chinese immigrants and therefore never having the opportunity to become naturalized citizens due to the terms of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Ark's allegiance and citizenship to the United States could not be questioned. Although there were opposing views on the case, it was determined that by emphasizing on a citizen's ancestry as opposed to their birthplace was not constitutional.

Ark's case would be used as a reference for several future cases concerning citizenship issues. His case broke grounds on an issue that would still plague Asian-Americans for years to come. Ark's ability to defend himself and assert himself as indeed an American truly broke the stereotype of the "yellow peril" during that time. Asians were feared to take jobs of hard-working Americans; in this case, Ark was that hard-working American, getting his rights taking away simply because of his ethnicity. His case shed light on the hypocrisy of the American government, and although it would takes decade for such an equality to develop, it nevertheless shed a much needed light on the true peril of Asian-Americans in the country during that time.

Long Live the Queen

Queen Liliuokalani, born in 1838, is the epitome of girl power as the last and only reigning Queen Monarch of Hawaii. Raised under the royal family, Liliuokalani was well-educated and spoke fluent English. Native Hawaiians, like most indigenous people, were marketed to the American people as less than capable, required the aid of a more civilized nation like the U.S. to show them the error of their ways. Furthermore, Asian-American women in the United States were being broadcast in newspapers and films as either wild seductresses or meek wives. Liliuokalani, with her education and efficiency as a leader, shattered such steoretypes during her reign as a force to be reckoned with.

After her brother David Kalakaua successfully won the majority vote and become king of Hawaii, Likiukalani won the position of heir-apparent after the death of her younger brother. Officially now a Crown princess, Liliuokalani set out to Europe to the Queen of England's Golden Jubilee. It is there that Liliuokalani garnered information on the Bayonet Constitution that her brother was forced to sign, essentially stripped the royal family of most of their power. This was only the beginning of the tragic demise of the Hawaiian monarchy. The constitution drafted in 1887 was the beginning of the annexation of the Hawaiian nation to the United States.

Kalakaua's death in 1891 meant that Liliuokalani would become the Queen of Hawaii, which was under a power struggle between the native Hawaiians trying to sustain their government and the forceful hands of the United States. Although Liliuokalani valiantly tried to listen to the pleas of her people by instating a new draft of the constiution, American and European businessmen working in Hawaii felt threatened by her actions and devised a plan to overthrow the queen. On January 16, 1893, 162 sailors and marines from the USS Boston landed ashore in Hawaii as scare tactic to the monarchy. The next day, the queen had no choice but to succumb to their demands, actions that President Grover Cleavland deemed illegal. However, Cleavland conditioned the queen to renounce the evil actions of her capturers, a request that was speculated to take too long for the U.S.'s government's comfort. Her hesitation was enough for Cleavland to backtrack on his words and declared Sanford B. Dole (one of the business savvy men who partook in the original coup of the monarch) as president of the Republic of Hawaii. Liliuokalani was on house-arrest for eight-months before she was given her civil rights in 1896. Although Liliuokalani would travel to the United States and still fight for her nation, she was not successful. However her bravery and spirit would be recorded in Asian-American newspapers during her time, inspiring the thousands of discriminated immigrants in the United States.

Mary Tape

Mary Tape was definitely not your average stay-at home mom and broke the stereotype of the submissive, complacent Asia-American Lotus Blossom. After being orphaned in Shangahi and brought to the States by Missionaries, Tape settled in San Fransisco, becoming an accomplished photographer and painter. After marriage and the birth of four children, Tape made what was an expected decision as a mother and member of our society--she enrolled her eight-year-old daughter in public school. It was 1884, not the most progressive time in history for Asian-Americans or any other race that wasn't Anglo-Saxon for that matter; however, the educated and Westernized Tape was still infuriated when Mamie Tape was denied admission into Spring Valley School by the principal, Jenny Hurley. Although this was unfortunately a common occurrence during that time period, it was uncommon for a woman such as Tape to take such aggressive action against the school, filing a lawsuit in a groundbreaking case Tape V. Hurley. Tape's words and demands are logical, as shown in this letter written to the San Fransisco board of education.

Marty Tape took principle Jenny Hurley to the California Supreme Court, suing the board of education and deeming their behavior as violation to "California Political code". In 1885 in a ground-breaking decision, Justice McGuire sided with Mary Tape, stating “To deny a child, born of Chinese parents in this state, entrance to the public schools would be a violation of the law of the state and the Constitution of the United States.” This was a dark and discriminatory era in our history where legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act was prohibiting Chinese workers from immigrating into the country for 10+ years. Tape decision may have been upheld in court, but the Spring Valley School and the San Fransisco Board of Education nonetheless took matter into their own hands. By creating a code separating "Mongol" children from attending their public schools, the board of education formed Oriental public schools for children like Tape's to attend to. This decision is an eerie premonition of the Jim Crow segregation laws of the South that would be enacted a century later. Asian-Americans were not looked at as equals to Anglo-Americans, with the media broadcasting a "Yellow Peril" coming from the far East and taking much need occupations for white men. Ironically enough, Chinese woman like Tape were demeaned in newspapers as prostitutes in San Fransisco's Chinatown or submissive housewives. This mindset was obviously shared by the San Fransisco's Board of Education by establishing such segregation.

Unfortunately, Tape's daughter never got the chance to attend Spring Valley, the administration claiming her "vaccinations were expired". Despite the lack of correspondence of the decision by the judge and the actions taken by the board, Tape's brave and mother instincts has left an impression in our history and forever impacted Asian-Americans.