Jobs, family brought many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to Alaska. Will they stay?

Photo taken by Fhoki Kayamori. Kayamori was born in Tokyo in 1877. He arrived in Yakutat in 1912 and lived a quiet life as a seasonal worker at the Libby McNeil cannery. He was an amateur photographer and with a unique, unobtrusive style he produced an uncommon perspective of life in Yakutat at the height of Southeast Alaska’s salmon canning industry. Description from the Alaska State Library catalog: Three young men, Filipino cannery workers, posing for a photograph. The middle man is holding a pipe.

Alaska Public Media will feature a new television documentary, ASIAN AMERICANS, on Monday and Tuesday, May 11 and 12, at 7 p.m. each evening. Led by a team of Asian American filmmakers, including producer Renee Tajima-Peña (Who Killed Vincent Chin?, No Más Bebés), this project examines the significant role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity, beginning with the first wave of Asian immigrants in the 1850s.

Because Alaska and its productive fishing industry became home for many Asian Americans, this week’s Hometown Alaska will complement this national documentary by featuring the voices of young Alaska Asian American and Pacific Islander residents here today. How did their family arrive? What opportunity have they found here? Will the younger generation continue to make Alaska home? Why or why not?

To enrich this conversation, I have invited Dr. E.J.R. David, a psychology professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to join me as “pop-up” co-host for this program. From the Philippines, Dr. David came to Alaska as a teen to join his working father in Barrow. His own story is compelling, and he has pursued an understanding of cultural identity and cultural oppression through four books that he has authored:

  • Brown Skins, White Minds: Filipino-American Postcolonial Psychology (2013)
  • Internalized Oppression: The Psychology of Marginalized Groups (2014)
  • The Psychology of Oppression (2017)
  • We Have Not Stopped Trembling Yet (2018)

Dr. David introduced me to a number of young Alaskans whose family roots vary but include the Asian diaspora, from Taiwan to Vietnam to Sri Lanka to the Philippines. His connections led to other connections, and today we plan to feature the voices of five young Alaskans:

  • Jeff Chen, whose family originally came from Taiwan
  • Nithya Thiru, whose family originally came from Sri Lanka
  • Lynette Pham, who grew up in Unalaska; her family came from Vietnam and the Philippines
  • And cousins Liliane Ulukivaiola and Love Katoanga, whose family originally came from Tonga and American Samoa

Thanks to social distancing protocols, all of our guests will be on the telephone. We will sequence them through the hour, while Dr. David will be on for the full hour.

As always, listeners questions and comments are welcome throughout the hour. Please join us, and don’t miss the PBS national documentary Monday and Tuesday evenings.

HOST: Kathleen McCoy and E.J.R. David


  • Jeff Chen, videographer
  • Nithya Thiru, human rights and gender policy practitioner
  • Lynette Pham, community organizer
  • Cousins: Liliane Ulukivaiola, graduate student in UAA Public Health Masters program and Love Katoanga, 2020 high school graduate



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air
  • LIVE: Monday, May 11, 2020 at 2:00 p.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, May 11, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

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