Sojourners in the Oregon Siskiyous : adaptation and acculturation of the Chinese miners in the Applegate Valley, CA. 1855-1900 Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/tx31qp261

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  • The study examines the acculturation and environmental adaptation of nineteenth century Chinese miners in a portion of southwestern Oregon. The problem concerns the varieties of culture change which resulted when this ethnic group found itself required to subsist in a new social and physical environment. The study focuses on the archaeological data recovered from several Chinese sites in southwestern Oregon as well as the records of Chinese purchases from a local Euro-American mercantile establishment. Through the use of ethnographic, archaeological and archival evidence, three Chinese behavioral patterns are investigated. The subsistence pattern includes dietary habits, wearing apparel, personal grooming and drug use. The settlement pattern includes characteristic locations of Chinese habitation sites as well as their architecture. The technological pattern involves the economic activities of the Chinese, in this case hy6raulic placer mining. The subsistence pattern of the Chinese sojourners exhibits little acculturation in food habits, personal grooming or drug use, but substantial adoption of Euro-American clothing and footwear. Environmental adaptations include the utilization of wild plants and animal foods on a limited basis. Generally, the day-to-day subsistence activities of the Chinese showed very little acculturative behavior. The settlement pattern shows a willingness to adapt some Euro-American construction techniques. However, traditional Chinese architectural practices persisted in both the urban and rural sojourner context. Environmental adaptation is displayed by the intelligent siting of camps relative to flooding, as well as the use of native materials for the erection of temporary shelters. Certain traditional Chinese practices of architectural arrangement and orientation may have persisted in the sojourner community. The settlement pattern is a blend of flexible and conservative responses to the new environment. The technological pattern of Chinese mining activity shows a rapid appropriation of Euro-American methods and and equipment. Since the Chinese immigrants had no native mining tradition to inhibit this borrowing, the technological pattern is the most acculturative and adaptive aspect of sojourner culture. Within an overall scheme of persistence of traditional Chinese lifeways, the sojourners exhibited selective acculturation and successful environmental adaptation in several areas of material culture. The Chinese were able to function and thrive in an unfamiliar setting without forfeiting the bulk of their native culture.
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