On April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese forces and ended the American war in Vietnam. The Fall of Saigon had tremendous repercussions for the people in Southeast Asia whose lives had been torn apart by the war. Former U.S. allies were persecuted, and many were forced to flee. U.S. refugee resettlement efforts brought some 130,000 Southeast Asians, most of them Vietnamese, to the U.S. But those left behind continued to face political persecution, retribution, genocide, and extreme poverty. Between 1975 and 2010, 1.2 million people from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia came to the United States. Southeast Asian refugees and their children found new homes in the United States and transformed our society. With 66,000 Hmong in the metro area, the Twin Cities is now known as the “Hmong Capital” of the world. Yet the experiences of Southeast Asian refugees are often missing from anniversary commemorations of the Vietnam War. What do we learn when we collect and preserve their stories?
This exhibit features 12 Immigrant Stories by Vietnamese, Hmong, Lao, and Cambodian Minnesotans who migrated to the United States in the years after 1975. They provide unique, first-hand accounts of the wars in Southeast Asia, the difficulty and dangers of life as a refugee, the vast resettlement bureaucracy, and the communities refugees and their families built in the United States.
These stories and many others have been preserved and shared through "Immigrant Stories," a project of the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC). The exhibit is hosted by the Minnesota's Immigrants website, a project of the Minnesota Digital Library at the University of Minnesota.
Elizabeth Venditto, Immigrant History Research Center, University of Minnesota