Becoming Chinese in Montana: The Chinese Empire Reform Association & National Identity among Montana's Chinese Communities

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That Montana had a large Chinese population in the late 19th century is well known. Often analysis of this community focuses solely on their challenges and contributions in the American West, ignoring the transnational nature of the Chinese experience. By understanding Montana’s Chinese pioneers through a global lens they can be seen as active and engaged participants who used the skills gained through their time in the American West to work for self improvement and to strengthen a severely weakened China they had temporarily left but never forgotten.

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Mark Johnson trains graduate students in education who serve in under-resourced Catholic schools in high poverty areas across the USA. Previously, Johnson taught for almost a decade in China. In this role, he brought students with the needed language ability to Montana to translate large collections of documents from the state’s early Chinese communities, helping to tell the story of the Chinese in Montana in their own words (see www.montanachinese.org for details of these projects).