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Bellingham mayor apologizes, 125 years after expulsion of Chinese

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike has issued a formal apology to the Chinese community for the expulsion of their people,125 years ago.

Pike says the apology is meant to make it clear: authorities now see the racist actions by regional governments and their supporters more than a century ago were wrong.

In 1885 and 1886, thousands of Chinese immigrants were driven out of Puget Sound towns during an economic downturn. Civic leaders and town newspapers argued the new residents were taking jobs away from white people.

The apology and related events this week in Bellingham are part of a year-long Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Mount Vernon are also taking part. The project also has a Facebook page.

Paul Kim writes about the project and the history that inspired it in this week's issue of the International Examiner.  As he describes it, in Bellingham, media and civic leaders gave the Chinese a deadline of November 1, 1885 to permanently leave the area:

"In an effort to preserve the economic supremacy of the majority in the region, white leaders organized an all-encompassing plan to rid the area of Chinese immigrants. The exact number of Chinese expelled is unknown, but it is estimated that 200 Chinese in Seattle (a significant number in the region during that time) were forced to leave on ships bound for China, leaving 150 Chinese immigrants stranded in the area," Kim writes.

Several events have already taken place to commemorate the anniversary, including Northwest Ballet’s “Emerald Bay,” a romantic dance composition, set in Bellingham Bay and the Puget Sound region in 1885.  

Upcoming performances take place on June 4-5 at McIntyre Hall  in Mt. Vernon and June 11-12  at the Mount Baker Theatrein Bellingham.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to