R. Gregory Nokes, a 1972 Nieman Fellow, will have his book, “Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon,” published in October by Oregon State University Press. The non-fiction book is the first authoritative account of the long-forgotten 1887 massacre of as many as 34 Chinese gold miners in Oregon’s Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America.
The killers were an improbable gang of horsethieves and schoolboys in northeastern Oregon’s remote Wallowa country. Even though the killers were known, and one confessed, no one was ever convicted of the crime, the worst of the many atrocities committed by whites against the tens of thousands of Chinese who immigrated to the American West in the 19th century to mine gold and build railroads.
Nokes discloses previously unknown details of the massacre, told against the background of the Chinese experience in the American West. He also includes the history of the Wallowa country, once the homeland for Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce until they were forced to leave in 1877, igniting the U.S.-Nez Perce war.
Nokes retired in 2003 after 43 years in journalism, including 25 years with The Associated Press and 15 years with The Oregonian in Portland. Since retiring, he has embarked on his second career as a writer and lecturer, appearing throughout the Pacific Northwest lecturing on the Chinese immigration. He lives with his wife, Candise, in West Linn, Oregon.