Nikkei and Chinese American History

The Pacific Northwest has a rich history of immigrants from Asia. We explore how Chinese and Japanese immigrants struggled to define their social and cultural place in American society, looking at the narrative shift from “Yellow Peril” and “Enemy Aliens” to today’s “Model Minorities”.

Learning Objectives

Students better understand the lived experiences of Chinese and Japanese immigrants and communities in the Pacific Northwest from the late 1800’s through WWII.
Students broaden their understanding of the diversity within the Chinese and Japanese community and the maintenance of culture and traditions through each generation.
Students demonstrate critical consciousness around the complex term Model Minority, identity and assimilation, and its implications for Asian Americans.

Places and Activities

This program is flexible, and can be offered in 3, 5, or 7 day itineraries.

We arrive in Seattle, exploring the history of immigration to the city, the development of China and Japanese ‘towns’, and how these communities have maintained their cultures and traditions.

Travelling south, we consider the complexities of Portland’s relationship with Chinese and Japanese Americans by visiting the Japanese Gardens, gifted by Japan after WWII, the underground “Shanghai” tunnels, and participating in a haiku workshop.

We head east along the route travelled by thousands of Japanese relocated to the Minidoka Internment Camp. We meet with a survivor to visit the camp and learn of their experience.

We close our time in reflection, thinking about our experiences over the week and confronting our own biases and internalized messages about immigration, identity and race.

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