In the 1800s, when California was captivated by gold fever, a small group of Chinese immigrants recognized the fortune to be made from the untapped resources along the Pacific coast, particularly from harvesting the black abalone of southern and Baja California. These immigrants, with skills from humble beginnings in a traditional Chinese fishing province, founded California's commercial abalone industry and led its growth and expansion for several decades. Today, the physical evidence of historical Chinese abalone fishing on the mainland has been erased by development. On California's Channel Islands, however, remnants of temporary abalone collecting and processing camps lie scattered along the coastlines. These sites hold a treasure trove of information, stories, lifeways, and history. Todd Braje uses them to explore the history of Chinese abalone fishing, presenting a microcosm of the broader history of Chinese immigrants in America.
Todd J. Braje is an associate professor of anthropology at San Diego State University, USA