Eric. B. Williams
Eric B. Williams
Eric B. Williams
It might be hard to believe the history of East Indian workers in Astoria was nearly forgotten when an event celebrating the founding of an Indian radical nationalist party here in 1913 and the city’s efforts to commemorate that history drew several hundred people Saturday.
State officials who attended discussed plans to introduce the Ghadar Party into school curriculum. Members of Astoria’s present-day Indian community hope it is the first of many such cultural celebrations to come.
Like others, Sameer Sharma, who owns the Hampton Inn & Suites in Astoria, didn’t know about the East Indians who once lived in Astoria when he moved here. He said it is important to celebrate this history and what he sees as a history of acceptance by Astorians. He and others also believe the celebrations will be good for Astoria, bringing in visitors and helping boost the economy.
Most of the audience and nearly all the performers and speakers at Saturday’s event were Indian. People traveled from across the West Coast to attend, and banners for Sikh organizations in Oregon and Washington state were on display.
Historian Johanna Ogden first published information about how East Indians, many of them Sikhs from India’s Punjab region, came to Oregon to work in the early 20th century and settled in Astoria’s Alderbrook neighborhood in a 2012 article. Ogden wrote about how the workers founded the Ghadar Party, a group that later fought for Indian independence from British rule.
After learning of this history, Astoria leaders advocated for a plaque at Maritime Memorial Park in 2013. The plaque was stolen in 2017. Oregon and Astoria officials and members of regional Sikh communities rededicated a new plaque for the Ghadar Party on a stormy day this spring.
The event Saturday, held at Maritime Memorial Park, included singing, speeches, traditional food and dance and martial arts demonstrations. Oregon leaders, including state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, were in attendance, along with local elected officials.