Smithsonian Highlights How Transcontinental Railroad Impacted Native Americans

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 10, 2019

Today (May 10) marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Summit, Utah, which was largely constructed by Chinese immigrants. To observe the occasion, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s (APA) Learning Together resource is highlighting how the railroad added to the destruction of Native American lands, livelihood and sovereignty.

“While we often hear about the brutal conditions and discrimination endured by Chinese laborers who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, we know less about its impact on Native American populations,” the Smithsonian APA said in an emailed statement. “By opening up the West to further expansion, the railroad hastened the loss of Native Americans’ lands, their sovereignty, and livelihood by virtually wiping out the buffalo.”

The colorful, easy-to-read site offers educational materials, lesson plans, games and workshops to help students learn about the Transcontinental Railroad. “Through these resources, Smithsonian APA hopes to challenge educators to cover the more difficult topics that may make students uncomfortable, and that is more inclusive of different voices and experiences,” reads the statement.

The Smithsonian has also partnered with 1882 Foundation, which raises awareness around the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, to host a series of events around the Transcontinental Railroad through May 20.