Photo: Japanese Miners, 1900. From "Japanese Canadian Cultural Center (Release Pending).
"The vast majority of the Asians they enticed to the other side of the Pacific were young men in their prime working years, most of whom came without wives, parents, or children. Abused and maligned, their deeds unsung, these men were an indispensable workforce that helped to build the American West." ---Sucheng Chan, Asian Americans, An Interpretive History
One day in 1987 my grandmother revealed she had once had an older brother. This was news to everyone, including her own children, one of whom was my dad. At that time, she was eighty-seven and said her greatest regret in life was never going to visit his grave. The reason? She didn't know where it was. All she knew was that he died in a mining accident somewhere in Wyoming when he was in his twenties.
I told my grandmother if I ever got the opportunity to look for his grave site, I'd try to find it for her. It seemed a safe promise at the time because I could not imagine ever being in Wyoming.
Fast forward twenty years later and I am in a station wagon heading to Wyoming north with my cameraman, Jayson Saylor and Reverend Kanya Okamoto, a Buddhist priest looking for my long, lost great uncle.
This documentary is about my journey to find my great uncle, the surprising things I learned about the first Japanese immigrants to Wyoming, and the conclusion to a family mystery that began in 1902 when my grandmother, then two, bid good-bye to a father and brother heading to America.
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