dispute over historic remains of chinese workers

We've been following along with this saga in Los Angeles for a little while now... three years ago, workers in Boyle Heights digging a subway tunnel for the Gold Line extension uncovered a large century-old collection of bones and artifacts, believed to be the final resting place of dozens of Chinese workers too poor to have been buried back in China and too little known to merit headstones.

For Chinese American historians, it was like finding buried treasure. Basically, the discovery offered a rare look at a largely ignored facet of Los Angeles' history, the earliest generations of Chinese immigrants who came to California to help build the railroads and perform other menial tasks.

There is now a dispute, however, on what to do with the remains: An emotional custody dispute over history.

Historians and some local elected officials say the items should be preserved and studied in order to build a better narrative of how early Chinese immigrants lived in America. But a local citizens' committee established to advise the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the discovery believes the most respectful thing to do is rebury the 128 sets of remains as soon as possible.

I think studying the remains and highlighting the stories of how these people lived would be a great way of honoring them. These early Asian Americans died in poverty and anonymity, lacking basic rights. They couldn't vote, marry, own property or be buried at local cemetaries. Putting them back in the ground without any attempt to further identify them would be disrespecting them all over again. Tell their stories! I want to know more.

The MTA's board of directors will have the final say in the coming months.

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