Chinese railroads workers performed dangerous and labor-intensive work, and many died or were seriously injured as a result. Little is known about how these individuals treated their injuries and ailments. Analysis of medicinal artifacts dating from 1865 to 1910 recovered from railroad sites in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Texas, and Utah suggest that railroad workers maintained their health and well-being through a combination of traditional and familiar practices (diet, herbal medicine, strict hygiene) and non-traditional treatments (European American patent medicines, homeopathy). Archival materials on Chinese medicine in nineteenth-century China and the United States can provide us with additional information on Chinese cultural beliefs regarding the human body, maintaining good health and hygiene, and treating diseases.
Ability Accommodation Information
This event provides the following accommodations:
- Handicap Accessible
Sarah Heffner is a Senior Historical Archaeologist at PAR Environmental Services, Inc. She received her Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Idaho in 2007, and her doctorate in anthropology from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2012. Heffner’s research interests include historical archaeology, museum studies, collections research, and oral history, and her dissertation explored the cross-cultural exchange of healthcare practices between Chinese and non-Chinese laborers at mining camps and urban sites in Nevada from 1860-1930. Over the past five years, she has been actively involved in the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project (CRRWNAP), and has coauthored a book on Chinese railroad workers, written an article on Chinese railroad workers’ healthcare practices for the journal Historical Archaeology, and co-authored an essay on the health and wellbeing of Chinese railroad workers for an edited book entitled The Chinese and the Iron Road. Heffner has recently been working on the artifacts from the 1969 Yreka Chinatown excavations.
About the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project
The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is a collaborative multi-agency partnership dedicated to research and education on Oregon's early Chinese population. The project is currently working on sites from across the state, within investigations focusing on Chinese railroad workers associated with the Oregon and California Railroad and its early attempts to cross the Siskiyou mountains (1883-1884), gold mining in the Blue Mountains (1860-1910), and rural Chinese communities. The archaeological field school, public volunteer opportunities, and outreach events planned for the summer of 2019 make the project and its findings accessible to Oregonians with an interest in the underrepresented history of our state.