When the United States left Vietnam and Southeast Asia following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the Hmong who had supported U.S. military operations were targeted by the communist-supported regime in Laos. Thousands fled to Thailand and were placed in refugee camps. Following the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, Laotian refugees arrived in the United States in great numbers. Anika Nelson, Luther College senior of Carroll, Iowa, is interviewing Hmong refugees that came to Decorah from Laos during the Vietnam War for her summer research project.
Nelson, the daughter of Michel and Rebecca Nelson of Carroll, is a 2015 graduate of Carroll High School. She is majoring in women and gender studies, and political science.
"It is so crucial that we do not forget all of the Hmong lives that were forever changed by this town. One thing that has been constantly reiterated in all of my interviews is that the Hmong refugees will never forget Decorah, and we should never forget them… All of the people that I have interviewed thus far have shared truly inspiring stories," said Nelson.
Nelson is working with Destiny Crider, Luther anthropology lab and collections manager and museum studies instructor, on her project "We're Thinking About You: Decorah Hmong Refugee's Reflection on their Past, Present and Future."
The Luther Anthropology Lab holds archives of the Northeast Iowa Refugee Resettlement Program, which documents the arrival and support work to transition refugees into American economy and society. Nelson is interviewing many Hmong refugees to gather more personal and in-depth stories from their lives. To do so, she travels around the Midwest interviewing those that came to Decorah from Laos from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.
Nelson and Crider's collaboration is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther's academic core.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.