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Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Here are a few examples of the ways archeologists explore the history of Asian Americans’ cultural heritage in America’s national parks and beyond.

National parks in Hawaii reveal Native Hawaiian heritage through archeology. See the stone walls used by fishermen to trap fish at the Kaloko Kuapa, or footprints from the last march of a warrior party killed by the volcanic eruption of Kilauea in 1790. Visit places considered sacred to Native Hawaiians, such as royal grounds and sanctuaries or petroglyph fields. The Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail takes trekkers through settlements, temples, and past a stone slide (see Na Ala Hele for more information). On the mainland, Hawaiians left their mark at places like the Hawaiian Village at Fort Vancouver, where they participated in the Pacific Northwest's economic development. Learn more about Hawaiian archeology at Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Kalaupapa NHP and Fort Vancouver NHS.

Asian immigrants living in nineteenth-century ethnic communities helped each other combat racism and discrimination. Visit the Chinatowns in Riverside and the Market Street, Heinlenville, and Woolen Mills Chinatowns in San Jose, California. Archeologists dug through concrete and the detritus of contemporary urban life to investigate homes and businesses, while oral historians interviewed former residents to gather their memories. Together, they recovered the remnants of a commercial and residential villages and preserved the significance of their stories to contemporary peoples.

During World War II, Japanese Americans were held at internment camps in the western United States. Archeology at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in eastern California, now Manzanar NHS, shows how people coped with internment. One such place is a community garden called Merritt Park. In the early 1940s, Kuichiro Nishi used his nursery and garden design skills to make the desert bloom. In 2008, his children and grandchildren volunteered on an archeological dig at the park. Learn more in an interview with the archeologist, or about internment camps throughout the U.S. in an online book. Archeology at Manzanar and other internment camps, like Minidoka, provides a tangible reminder of the impacts of withheld civil liberties on everyday Americans. You can help! Check the Manzanar NHS website or contact a park in your area to learn about volunteer opportunities on archeological digs.

Asian Pacific history is represented throughout the national parks systems. Learn more through Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans, National Register travel guides here or here, a reading list, or by checking with a park in your area.

  • (NPS photo) Hawaiian petroglyphs at Hawaii 
        Volcanoes NP.
  • The reconstructed Ng Shing Gung temple from Heinlenville.
  • Andrew Uchida, great-grandson of Merritt Park landscape artist Kuichiro Nishi, volunteered to help excavate at Manzanar NHS.