Collaboration between Federal, State and Local partners results in 2020 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award

Medford, Oregon – The Bureau of Land Management Medford District is one of several partners recognized for work on the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. The 2020 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award recognized the project for its outsized impact on the preservation and interpretation of the state’s heritage. The award is given each year by the Oregon Heritage Commission.

The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is led by Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology. The grassroots partnership of federal, state, and local entities has spread across the state, with a focus in underserved rural communities in southern and eastern Oregon. This public archaeology project is helping rewrite the significant yet neglected history of the Chinese diaspora and Chinese Oregonians. Partners leveraged their limited individual resources and local relationships into an extraordinary program that uses innovative approaches to promote appreciation of Oregon’s cultural heritage.

The Buck Rock Tunnel, high in the mountains of BLM’s Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, is one of the best places to learn about this history.  BLM Archaeologist Lisa Rice has worked for years to increase public access to the tunnel and awareness of the Chinese laborers who built it. Rice, in partnership with Chelsea Rose of Southern Oregon University, has hosted summer field schools for archaeology students. These immersive programs provide field experience excavating and preserving the tunnel and associated history. The site features a trailhead and kiosk with plans for interpretive signs that help connect visitors with the past. 

The Oregon Heritage Commission identified the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project as having made outstanding contributions to preserving Oregon heritage. The multi-agency collaboration is supported by the Malheur National Forest, the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology, Oregon State Parks, the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Bureau of Land Management Medford District. 

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