HomeChinese AmericanCity remembers 50 Chinese bodies buried beneath school

City remembers 50 Chinese bodies buried beneath school

Three residents of Missoula, Montana are creating a documentary called The Bodies Beneath Us to tell the story of the mass grave site beneath an elementary school. 

According to KPAX News, the grave site holds the remains of 50 Chinese people from the Missoula community. Paul Kim, who is the producer of this documentary, got the idea after reading a research paper from the University of Montana called: Verily the Road was Built with Chinaman’s Bones: An Archaeology of Chinese Line Camps in Montana.

According to Scripps News, the grave site was used to bury people until the end of the 1800s, and it previously held the remains of both White and Chinese people. However, after the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, there was a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment, so some White people did not want to be buried next to a Chinese person.

So, the remains of all the White folks were exhumed at the grave site, but the bodies of the Chinese people were “left behind.” The director of the documentary stated that many of the Chinese people that were buried hoped to someday be reunited with their families, but the city of Missoula forgot about them and, instead, built a school on top of the grave site.

Earlier in the summer, Paul Kim fought at the Missoula City Council for an official remembrance of the grave site. On August 14, Kim was successful. The city council wrote a resolution, saying they were committed to honoring Missoula’s Chinese folks. They recognized the legacy of the Chinese community, saying: “Montana’s Chinese population was vital to the creation of the state’s cities, railroads, and communities.”

The documentary will premiere at the Big Sky Festival in February 2024.

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