History

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Photo: Jenny Holmberg, 2019

I was going through pictures from the trip last summer, and started looking for more of the history of the building of the coast-to-coast railroad. Through an interview – that was published on the same day that the picture above was taken, June 3rd 2019 🙂 – I found out about this book, which might very well be my literature-to-bring for the next trip: “Empire’s Tracks: Indigenous Nations, Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad”, by Dr Manu Karuka. Unfortunately enough it doesn’t seem to be available at the LA Libraries…but might just be well worth the investment to buy it.

Many sources tell about the controversies and ongoing corruption during the building of the railways here in the US, most of them also mentioning the Native Americans living along the (then to-be-built) rails. But few of them give a broader picture of that side of the story – those people are reduced to side-liners in the stories told, something this book seems to do differently.

It’s easy to romanticize the train-riding here – since the trips are magnificently beautiful and breathtaking at times, and it’s such a pleasant way to travel through the countryside. But the railways were not a welcomed addition to the landscape by all people “involved”. It cut through important hunting grounds at the time – and made the colonization of the west quicker and broader, by making the process of moving to these lands from the east so much easier. The lands granted by the Congress to the railroad companies wasn’t legally under its control, but was inhabited by different Indigenous nations (who all responded differently to the impact the railroads had on them). And so on. It’s still surprising to me that these kind of facts are not the facts you first find when searching for information on these topics. But I am glad and grateful for each and everyone out there doing their best to broaden the history as it’s taught. And even more importantly, who brings it into discussions about the present state of things.

One of the many perks of train-traveling. Lots of time to educate ourselves – even on the unpleasant history of the trip we are currently doing. I highly encourage everyone of us to do more of that – both when on the rails and off!

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