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Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander History & Our National Parks

Many national parks have connections to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI). Some parks are dedicated to the lives and legacies of particular communities, such as those who suffered from Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy, at what’s now Kalaupapa National Historical Park, or those incarcerated during World War II in places such as Manzanar and Minidoka National Historic Sites. Many others have ties to remarkable AANHPI individuals, such as Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, Jun Fujita, a photojournalist and poet who lived in a cabin in what’s now part of Voyageurs National Park, or the paniolo, Hawaiian cowboys who worked in the Kaʻū district of what’s now Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

For everyone traveling to national parks, there are quite a few places where you can learn about AANHPI history and culture. AANHPI narratives have – and continue to – shape the history of the United States and national parks play a pivotal role in sharing these stories.

Note: NPF uses the language Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. While the intent is to honor inclusivity and be representative of various ways that people identify, we recognize that this language does not account for all identities. We recognize the importance and need of specificity in reference to distinct communities. We also recognize that the stories highlighted here do not account for all identities and we will continue to elevate more stories and help expand the history preserved and shared in national parks.

NPF's Work in This Space

NPF supports national parks, programs, and projects that highlight the stories of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who made history and those who continue to shape our future.

  • Visitor reads the Does History Matter panel with text explaining the transition from slavery, 13th amendment, and Jim Crowe. Images of the time period and quotes for subject experts included.
    Inclusive Storytelling
    NPF’s Inclusive Storytelling program supports contemporary research projects in parks, as well as projects that transform the research into relevant interpretative products, including park programs, exhibits, and videos.
  • Vintage typewriter and sheets of paper sit on a large wooden desk.
    National Park Service Mellon Humanities Fellowships
    The NPS Mellon Humanities Fellowship program, supported by NPF, supports the work of a collection of humanities scholars whose research and analysis of the complex and fascinating histories in and around our parks helps us discover untold perspectives and new voices.

Recent Projects

Explore just some of the projects supported by NPF that help preserve and share the stories of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in our national parks.

Clear blue sky hangs over a low, narrow barracks row and a small guard tower. In the distance, you can see a watertower painted with checks in white and orange
Amache National Historic Site
Supporting the Establishment of Amache National Historic Site
NPF completed a land transaction in Granada, Colorado that enabled NPS to formally establish Amache National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System in early 2024. Amache was one of 10 former incarceration camps established during World War II to detain Japanese Americans, and the new site was designated to preserve, protect, and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations resources associated with the wrongful incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry.
  • A three-story brick building with a yellow streetcar passing alongside
    Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Seattle Unit), Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks
    Expanding Programming
    An NPF ParkVentures grant is supporting Outdoor Asian, working alongside the Seattle Parks Foundation, to expand its programming – including guided snowshoe walks, park cleanups, community science programs, and beginner backpacking and camping trips – to build relationships across Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) cultures, with other communities of color, and with the natural world.
  • Hikers walk across rough, hardened lava on a crater floor
    Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
    Rehabilitating Trails at Hawai’i Volcanoes
    An NPF Service Corps grant is supporting Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in connecting Native Pacific Islanders and additional marginalized groups with college level peers to rehabilitate trails following the devastating 2018 volcanic eruption and improve visitor native forest bird watching areas.
  • A group of people recreate a historic photograph, standing in front of two steam train engines
    Intermountain Regional Office
    Supporting a Mellon Fellow
    With support from an NPF grant, NPS’s Intermountain Regional Office is hosting a Mellon Fellow to focus on the history and legacy of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Fellow is exploring the themes of labor, western identity, and Indigenous sovereignty, as well as researching the stories of Chinese and other workers. The Fellow is documenting sites worthy of preservation, engaging partners, and updating park interpretation.
  • A view of Haleakalā crater and sunrise
    Haleakalā National Park
    Engaging Hawaiian Speakers Online
    Thanks to an Inclusive Storytelling grant from NPF, Haleakalā National Park is creating a new NPS website in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) to engage and connect to the Hawaiian community, as well as Hawaiian speakers and learners of all ages.
  • A night, an illuminated path leads to a gate
    War in the Pacific National Historical Park
    Exploring Wartime in the Mariana Islands
    A NPS Mellon Humanities Fellow is inventorying existing oral histories at War in the Pacific National Historical Park and American Memorial Park, working with interpretive teams at the parks to develop products and programs highlighting the stories within the oral history collection.
  • A group of people surround a small cabin on the shore of lake
    Voyageurs National Park
    Rehabilitating the Jun Fujita Cabin
    NPF funded a service corps crew to work on historical and structural rehabilitation of the Jun Fujita Cabin at Voyageurs National Park. The cabin was designed and built around 1928 by Jun Fujita, the first Japanese American photojournalist, who captured national attention by photographing key events despite facing rampant anti-immigrant sentiment. Youth conservation crews worked to restore his summer cabin at Voyageurs, preserving the historic structure so the park can continue to share Fujita’s legacy with visitors.
  • Elevated wood path leads into a tropical forest
    Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
    Connecting Indigenous Seniors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes
    A NPF-supported project engaged underserved senior citizens who are Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders and Asian Pacific Islanders to lead programs at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The 65-85-year-olds in the Guardian Seniors Kupuna Program completed training and a climate change workshop with the goal of offering public programming. Prior to the initiative, some Indigenous elders felt the park was for visitors, not locals; now the group has a sense of pride and eagerness to pass along their knowledge, native culture, and storytelling at the park.
  • A ranger holds up a piece of rock, with small glints of gold, in front of a group of students
    Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park - Seattle Unit
    Connecting Seattle 4th Graders to Local Lands and History
    An Open OutDoors for Kids grant supported Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Seattle Unit and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience to provide online programming and in-person field trips for 4th graders in Seattle area Title I schools. The initiative engaged students to connect with public lands and cultural institutions in their communities, and to learn about Seattle’s historic Japantown and the Japanese American Remembrance Trail.
  • Sandy beach with a few large rocks in the water
    War in the Pacific National Historical Park
    Teaching Traditional Indigenous Fishing
    A NPF Junior Ranger Angler grant to War in the Pacific National Historical Park supported traditional fishing clinics for local native and Pacific Islander youth and families with a focus on safe and sustainable fishing, community engagement, and natural and cultural resource stewardship. Peskadot (“fisherman, hunter” in native Chamorro language) Junior Rangers from Guam’s coastal village communities learned about traditional Indigenous fishing methods practiced in the Western Pacific for centuries and deepened their appreciation for local land and sea resources.
  • In a grassy field, two large structures
    Minidoka National Historic Site
    Strengthening a Local Friends Group
    NPF provided a capacity building grant to Friends of Minidoka to support the group in becoming a stronger philanthropic partner to Minidoka National Historic Site. NPF funded work on communication and engagement, philanthropy, and youth workforce development, as well as a program manager to support continued growth. Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho preserves a portion of a WWII-era Japanese American incarceration site, serving as a memorial and educating visitors about this chapter of American history.

Related Stories

  • Calista Lum leads the students in their swearing in as Junior Rangers at Yosemite National Park
    Student-Led Field Trips Connect Kids & Communities to Parks
    Calista Lum is a physics major at University of California, Merced, but also a college student ranger at Yosemite National Park! Explore her story and how her work at Yosemite is helping students see their identity represented in a national park, which leaves a lasting impression.
  • Kim stands next to a sign that reads "Manzanar War Relocation Center"
    Guest Blog
    The Power of Place
    NPF’s Kim Hirose Tobe shares how her personal story is intertwined with national parks.
  • A koa tree under blue skies with clouds rises above a patch of ferns
    NPS Video
    "Koa Talking to Me"
    This video from the National Park Service features a Hawaiian man and his love for one of the rarest and most threatened trees in the work — the Acacia Koa tree.
  • historical photo of Chien-Shiung Wu
    Breaking Barriers During World War II
    World War II challenged American cultural beliefs, biases, and practices. Explore the stories of some of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who broke barriers during World War II, provided by the National Park Service.
  • A group of people walk along a wooden walkway towards a mountain range featuring a waterfall
    NPS Video
    Chinese History & Yosemite National Park
    Join Park Ranger Yenyen Chan in an exploration of the role Chinese immigrants played in shaping Yosemite National Park in this video from the National Park Service.