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Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander History & Culture in Parks

National parks celebrate and honor the many generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who have played a role in our country’s history and continue to make an impact to this day.
  • Reflecting on Our Past
    Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have contributed and shaped the rich heritage of the United States in countless ways, and many of these stories are reflected throughout national park sites.
  • Inspiring the Future
    The National Park Service (NPS) offers a unique lens to learn and share these stories, and NPF is committed to helping parks interpret and amplify these narratives and experiences.
  • NPF's Commitment
    NPF and its partners are dedicated to increasing access to the places, cultural resources, and stories that help all people gain a deeper understanding of the diversity that defines American history and culture.

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
    Launched in 2023, 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 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.

  • 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 will host a Mellon Fellow to focus on the history and legacy of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Fellow will explore the themes of labor, western identity, and Indigenous sovereignty, as well as research the stories of Chinese and other workers. The Fellow will document sites worthy of preservation, engage partners, and update park interpretation.
  • A view of Haleakalā crater and sunrise
    Haleakalā National Park
    Engaging Hawaiian Speakers Online
    Thanks to a grant from NPF, Haleakalā National Park will create 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 will inventory existing oral histories at War in the Pacific National Historical Park & 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 will support 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 will engage 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 Strong Parks, Strong Communities 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. 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.
  • 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.