Lili Kim in conversation with David K. Yoo, a historian and vice provost at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively about religion in Korean American history. Listen here as Kim and Yoo discuss a range of topics: how Korean churches became a social hub for Korean Americans in the early twentieth century; how interconnected religion and politics were in Korean American anticolonial movement in Hawai‘i and the continental United States; and how like all good “families,” the congregation members formed a strong connection with one another against the backdrop of their transnational fight against Japanese colonialism, even as they navigated difficult and complicated conflicts as a community. TRANSCRIPT >> LILI KIM: So David, as I mentioned to you before, we’re doing this project on home and one of the photographs I’m using is a picture of a congregation of Korean Presbyterian Church in Dinuba, California in early 1940. What struck me about that photo is how well dressed people were. So is this how people usually dressed to go to church during that time? Or is it sort of a staged photo where you know women are wearing these beautiful hanbok and you know men are dressed in their Sunday best, and yet you know as far as we know, they were migrant farm workers, right? — day laborers, so it’s not as if they had these prominent positions or a lot of money. >> DAVID YOO: Yeah, I mean I think it’s without knowing more about the particular–I saw the picture–but without knowing more about the context–but I think as you know, a lot of times churches would do, they might do like an annual photograph, like for the membership, and so for those events typically people would dress up and would you know wear their best clothes. And that would mean a lot of times for the women and sometimes the children wearing hanbok and things like that. Because sometimes it was done around New Year’s and things like that. Or the holidays–so there would have been some of those things. So I think it’s not, I mean obviously that’s not the way most people dress every day, but I think because those kind of photos, especially, I’ve seen a lot of those kind of photos and that’s normally the context, so that’s probably why they were wearing the clothes that they were wearing. >> LILI KIM: Yeah and you know, I mean I grew up in Minneapolis but my dad was an atheist, my mom was Buddhist who converted to Christianity eventually. But needless to say, I didn’t go to a church growing up, let alone a Korean church. And you, on the other hand, you grew up in a church, right? Your father was a pastor, you end up writing about Korean American religious history, so could you just give us a little context of how important Korean churches were to Korean immigration history? >> DAVID YOO: Sure, and yeah my father was not a pastor but he was an elder, within the Presbyterian Church and came fairly early and so was more established by the time more people started coming from you know the post ‘65 period. But my book is obviously about an earlier period between really the first half of the 20th century. But in that book I really make the argument that Korean American churches and specifically Protestant churches really were the single most important institution in the Korean community. And I think that that’s been true for well over a hundred years. I mean the contexts have changed so I think that clearly you know what the churches kind of represented in the first half of the 20th century versus say the second half of the 20th century, you know there were shifts of course, but I think that the institution itself really was and has continued to be the most important or central gathering place for Koreans in the United States. And that was certainly the truth for me when I was growing up in southern California and I think that it’s still the case. I think it’s harder to know what the future will be–once I think–because Korean immigration has slowed to some extent and I think that with the passing of the first generation of the current kind of first generation, even though that’s kind of extended out over time, it’s not clear what role the church will continue to play. But I think historically, certainly, and for well over 100 years, I think it really has been the most important institution. >> LILI KIM: Yeah, so I’m really interested in the early 20th century as you know, of Korean immigration history and particularly when Koreans came to Hawaii as plantation laborers and they were able to establish churches and you know at a furious rate. So how were they able to do that? And maybe talk a little bit about how the anti-colonial movement sort of figured into the space of church as well. >> DAVID YOO: Yeah. I mean I think what’s interesting is that you find that on the plantations and then eventually later in places like Honolulu, Koreans gathered and whenever they gathered they formed churches. And in part, that was a very local expression of what was happening on a particular state plantation or in the city. But those churches were really linked to these much larger transnational networks and some of that was really, it’s kind of was very layered, but if you think about it, the whole passage of Koreans to Hawaii was in some ways facilitated by those church networks and those religious networks because the Methodist Church that sent that first group of laborers to come really had ties, for example, to missionaries that had gone to Hawaii and to establish missions there. So if you think about it, the networks, these transnational networks, really facilitated the movement of people and in ideas and […]
Watch the video below to hear Cheryl Savageau recite her poem, “Red,” and discuss the stories behind and within the quilt pictured here, Jazz Autumn: Quarter Note Triplets. TRANSCRIPT >> CHERYL SAVAGEAU: So this quilt happened when I was living–started when I was living in New Mexico. And it was fall and it was New Mexico and I was missing home so much. So I started playing with fall colors and so forth on my design wall. And really, I started building a forest on the wall, is what happened. And then I wanted to make it so that it was showing a little bit of swirliness–I don’t know if you can see it. You’ve got the yellow there. So the piece is in this,in the center are much smaller, then it gets bigger and bigger. So it’s called Jazz Autumn. And it actually has some–the structure has something to do with quarter note triplets. It’s all connected with things I was learning in jazz at the time. But it was the beginning of my doing a number of quilts that were essentially abstract landscapes. So that became another side of the poetry in some ways for me. It’s sort of like if you think about the poetry as awikhigan and you think about quilts as awikhigan, you know what, they’re more tied in than saying “oh you’re doing visual work or you’re doing something else.” >> ASHLEY SMITH: Yeah and this is really important and for folks who are joining us in this conversation and thinking about awikhigan and what that means as that sort of activity of engaging in creation of knowledge and storytelling, but that’s not just limited to books or writing. >> CHERYL SAVAGEAU: Right. >> ASHLEY SMITH: And it’s active and it’s collective. And so this is amazing, how we see just in some of your work, this rich Indigenous ways of thinking about land, creation, imagining, relationships, and being able to you know see the land in these really profound and interconnected and relationship-based ways, I think is really powerful. >> CHERYL SAVAGEAU: I would love to read another poem if that would be OK. >> ASHLEY SMITH: That would be amazing. >> CHERYL SAVAGEAU: So it’s the poem that is related to this quilt. It’s a poem called “Red,” and on the page is actually a tree, which is not something I did on purpose. It sort of became a tree on the page. But it is about actually–it starts in there, in the Amherst area. I was driving from Amherst to Worcester, Massachusetts with another poet, taking the road north of the Quabbin, and it was fall and all the maples were red. So it starts in that place and it ends with a few lines that are actually from Chrystos. So it starts with two different poets. (Poem) Red In his new poem the red autumn woods are a metaphor for leftist martyrs. We are traveling east through a maple forest that blazes the hillsides on both sides of this winding back-country road. Look at the trees I want to tell him. Listen, the trees have their own stories to tell like the story of fire deep within the heart. They too have been martyrs in the long war against the land, a nation cut down, children denied. A hundred years ago these hills were bare of trees, the stone walls that wind through them, the illusion of ownership. Now the hills are red with maples. My heart is leaping out to meet them, my eyes cannot be full enough. Though acid falls from the clouds, maples have gathered on the hillsides in every direction. See how they celebrate. They are wearing their brightest dresses. Come sisters, let me dance with you. I offer you a song. Let me paint it red with passion. You are all the women I have ever loved.
Go Deeper—Listen to Ashley Smith in conversation with Ashlie Sandoval about researching the powderhorn and ways to learn to see through erasure narratives TRANSCRIPT >> ASHLIE SANDOVAL: My name is Ashlie Sandoval. I’m a CHI Fellow here. And my work looks at race in the built environment. And Ashley Smith, thank you for having this conversation with me. Maybe you can introduce yourself briefly and then we’ll start. >> ASHLEY SMITH: Hi to all of our visitors. My name is Ashley Smith and I too am a CHI Fellow. I work in Native American and Indigenous Studies. And most of my research takes place in Wabanaki territories in Maine and my hometown, which you’re about to hear a whole lot about. >> ASHLIE SANDOVAL: Great. Thank you. So today we’re looking at your object, the Powderhorn, that you found in the Mead Museum. Is that correct? >> ASHLEY SMITH: Yeah. >> ASHLIE SANDOVAL: How did you come across the Powderhorn? >> ASHLEY SMITH: In starting to think about doing this virtual exhibit project, I was looking–I know that art collections at Amherst, we don’t have a lot of material, artwork, or objects from Indigenous peoples. And I’ve been thinking quite a bit about, you know, what does that mean? And in thinking about engaging with Indigenous history. And there is, some, I should say, really great work. We do now have a couple of works of art by Native artists. And that work is happening. But I was trying to think about how to engage in stories about home and land and place and Indigenous history. Rather than look for other objects, I started searching for keywords of places from home, and I started with the Kennebec River Valley. And so searching for the Kennebec River and the word Kennebec, which is both where I’m from and also where much of my work takes place as the location where the Nanrantsouak or Norridgewock village is located. Which is where sort of the focus of my latest project. And this pulled up very few things. But the couple of things that it pulled up were really interesting. And one is, you’ll see on my page, the image of the Homestead on the Kennebec. And the other was this Powderhorn. And at first I thought, I don’t know what I’ll do with this Powderhorn and I read the description and was like, oh wait! It belonged to–it’s called Powderhorn for John and Sara from Vassalboro, which is in Central Maine. It was made by a gentleman from China, Maine, which is also in the Kennebec River Valley, not far from Vassalboro. And this is a region that is central to homelands for Kennebec Wabanaki people on the Kennebec River. But also importantly that the Powderhorn was made for John, who was a soldier with Benedict Arnold in his ill-fated march up the Kennebec River during the American Revolutionary War to protect Quebec. And so those connections had me thinking a lot about this object and its role in this sort of moment in history. And it’s a moment in history that’s really, really important to both the history of Wabanaki presence in Kennebec homelands. And the way that the story of Benedict Arnold’s march has been told instead as a story that marks Indigenous absence. >> ASHLIE SANDOVAL: That’s a great place to stop. Because what struck me in your story was how Benedict Arnold’s remarks about Wabanaki presence in the area gets interpreted as an evidence of disappearance or ruin. Can you tell us a little bit more about who Arnold is interacting with in his stories and how you see this sort of ongoing Indigenous Native presence in his fictional history of disappearance? >> ASHLEY SMITH: That’s a great question. So there’s–I think to tell that story, I have to say just a little bit about how much of a disaster this adventure or misadventure is for Benedict Arnold. Listeners, if you’re familiar with American Revolutionary War history, you might know Benedict Arnold in another capacity as a traitor. You know, often linked with ideas about treason. But at this particular moment in 1775, Colonel Benedict Arnold is leading troops up the Kennebec River to attack the English at Quebec City. And he’s following this map that was made around 1760 by a gentleman by the name of Montressor, who had Native guides up the Kennebec River. And the Kennebec River, as I mentioned before, is Indigenous home territory, so there are Native people who know this land very, very well and know how to navigate it. And they had guided Montresor up toward Quebec and he made a map. The only trouble is he didn’t know where he was most of the time. And so the map that he made, I mean his journey went very smoothly, but his map was totally not accurate. So Benedict Arnold, on this trip, he actually has a couple of Native guides. One who is called Eneas in the journals. The other man actually isn’t named and this may be the person or a relative of the person who signed the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1713 from St. John’s. The St. John’s Native Committee. And while he has these Native guides, he actually isn’t following them. He’s trying to follow the map. And this leads to lots of trouble. The other thing that is important to know is that the English are reluctant to adopt Indigenous ways of navigating the waterways. And so they’re pretty ill-equipped for this journey. They have too much stuff. Their boats are too big. They’re not able to easily navigate the waterways or the portages around the falls. And so what happens is they have to stop a bunch of times. Their boats capsize, their food gets wet. They find themselves in different places, you know, boiling their leather of their clothes and killing their dogs in order to have something to eat. So it is quite a […]
This is a map of the New England colonies made about 1753 by cartographer John Green, then copied and imprinted by Thomas Jefferys in London in 1755. How might we come to approach this map in new ways? TRANSCRIPT >> ASHLEY SMITH: Take a look at the map. What do you see? Perhaps, the swooping arm of Cape Cod attracts your eye. For those of you who are from or are familiar with southern New England, you’ll likely recognize the outlines of familiar states. Massachusetts or Connecticut, and Rhode Island, maybe New Hampshire. Take a look at the boundaries and borders that make up these states. What stories do these boundaries and borders tell, as they separate the broad landscape into provinces and then later, into states? How does this carving of space into political units of this kind shape the way we can think of the land? Or our relation to it? Or even our relationship to one another? What would this map look like without them? Would the jutting land of Long Island or the crooked elbow of Cape Cod be enough to help you find your bearings? Would it take longer for you to figure out where you are? What would it be like to not see or know from boundaries and borders of states? But instead, to see all the land here as homeland? In what way might that grounding make these lines and divisions start to look odd?
Watch this interview with Savageau as she describes the story and process behind Corn Woman. TRANSCRIPT >> CHERYL SAVAGEAU: Corn Woman’s an interesting figure for me because she does bring together a few different threads and one of course is our story of Corn Woman, our first woman, who was born from the dew on a green light leaf in the early morning as the sunlight hits it. And I thought about that since we have these fragments, you know. The scientist in me of course comes out and I realize this is the moment of photosynthesis. I mean, this is the moment you know when the sun gets the water on a green leaf. That’s when it happens. And I know that the ancestors didn’t know about carbon dioxide but they knew enough to know that everything comes from the green plants. When I think of her I always think of her kind of leaping forward into life. You know, like from the green world. And so she is you know both first woman and Corn Woman, so she is the beginning of it all and the nurturer. So I have this story and then I had read Awiakta’s book on Selu, which is the Cherokee Corn Mother stories. And in that story, her grandchildren are starving, and she actually runs her hands up her belly to her breasts and from her breast falls all this corn that she fills baskets with. So literally from her breasts comes the corn. So that was the image I think when I started creating the assemblage was exactly that. But in terms of how it came about is kind of interesting because it’s built on what used to be a wooden sweater frame which is how they dried sweaters back in my grandmother’s time, and I happened to see one in a shop and I remembered, you know from my childhood, and I was like, “Oh I really need to have that.” So I came home, put it on the table, and a group of us had been making gourds, you know grown on the land, and someone had cut the top off a gourd and wasn’t going to use it and said, “oh give it to Cheryl.” So I took it home and just put it on that because it was the nearest thing, and when I came back I realized it was a breast. So that’s when I began building her from the land. So there’s the gourd and then there’s a starfish which is her other breast and then of course the whole headdress is corn. And I happen to have one of those old copper corn, what do you call them? It’s like a form you do cornbread in. >>ASHLEY SMITH: Yeah. >>CHERYL SAVAGEAU: Yeah, hanging in my kitchen. And I went into the kitchen at one point and went “oh,” and so that became her face. And so you know that’s kind of how it proceeded. I had an old sweetgrass basket and so the–you know with the story the breasts, of course, and the corn–I just wanted to have that spray of corn you know going down into that basket, so I did that with beads. And then other little parts that came into that–well you remember this–we had gone north to Norridgewock, we were collecting some pine bark that had fallen in the ground that was so beautiful, and when I was building the assemblage it was you know part of the things that were around me and I was like, “That’s perfect. That belongs here.” There’s a little corn that’s woven like a basket that Judy Dow made. I feel like there was community involved as well, you know, the the gourd coming from Lisa the you know all of these different things, coming from like a women’s community but also coming from the land. So it’s a very important piece to me that way. I think the other thing is, you know, I had written a poem that was basically about breastfeeding, and that feeling of abundance that women have that men are sometimes sort of, you know, afraid of–really I think– afraid of, I wanted to celebrate that. And so that was you know part of it also, because we are as women we are the land, we are connected to corn mother in that way because we are also providing life from our own bodies.
Organized by Contributing CHI Fellow Ashley E. Smith Brooks, Lisa. 2008. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Brooks, Lisa. n.d. “Our Beloved Kin: Ktsi Amiskw, the Great Beaver.” Our Beloved Kin: Remapping a New History of King Philip’s War. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://ourbelovedkin.com/awikhigan/ktsi-amiskw. Brooks, Lisa T., and Cassandra M. Brooks. 2010. “The Reciprocity Principle and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Understanding the Significance of Indigenous Protest on the Presumpscot River.” International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies 3 (2): 11–28. Bruchac, Margaret M. 2004. “Earthshapers and Placemakers: Algonkian Indian Stories and the Landscape.” In Indigenous Archaeologies: Decolonising Theory and Practice, edited by Claire Smith and H. Martin Wobst, 56–80. One World Archaeology. Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge. Bruchac, Margaret M. 2007. “Historical Erasure and Cultural Recovery: Indigenous People in the Connecticut River Valley.” Ph.D. diss., University of Massachusetts Amherst. http://search.proquest.com/docview/304849021/abstract/DD03A1A6DEC94D1BPQ/1. Bruchac, Margaret M. 2011. “Revisiting Pocumtuck History in Deerfield: George Sheldon’s Vanishing Indian Act.” Historical Journal of Massachusetts 39 (1 & 2): 31–77. “Cheryl Savageau.” n.d. Cheryl Savageau. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://cherylsavageaublog.wordpress.com/. Kauanui, J. Kēhaulani. 2016. “‘A Structure, Not an Event’: Settler Colonialism and Enduring Indigeneity.” Lateral 5 (1). http://csalateral.org/issue/5-1/forum-alt-humanities-settler-colonialism-enduring-indigeneity-kauanui/. Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions. Nicolar, Joseph. 2007. The Life and Traditions of the Red Man. Edited by Annette Kolodny. Durham: Duke University Press. O’Brien, Jean M. 2010. Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England. Indigenous America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Roberts, Kenneth Lewis. 1938. March to Quebec: Journals of the Members of Arnold’s Expedition. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company. Savageau, Cheryl, 1992. Home Country. Cambridge, MA: Alice James Books. Savageau, Cheryl. 1995. Dirt Road Home. 1st ed. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Books. Savageau, Cheryl. 2006. Mother/Land. Cambridge U.K.: Salt Publishing. Wolfe, Patrick. 2006. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research 8 (4): 387–409. Ashlie Sandoval Copeland, Huey. “About Time: Meg Onli in Conversation with Huey Copeland.” Artforum International, May 2019. Gale Literature Resource Center. ———. Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Gatson, Rico. “RICO GATSON.” Accessed December 11, 2020. http://ricogatson.com/. Interaction Design Foundation. “Ideation for Design – Preparing for the Design Race.” The Interaction Design Foundation, August 2020. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/ideation-for-design-preparing-for-the-design-race. Ligon, Glenn. “Neons.” GLENN LIGON. Accessed November 2, 2020. http://www.glennligonstudio.com/neons. Roberts, Robert. The House Servant’s Directory: An African American Butler’s 1827 Guide. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2006. ———. “Who Was Robert Roberts?” Gore Place. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://goreplace.org/about/history/who-was-robert-roberts. Soldi, Rafael. “Q&A: Jonathan Mark Jackson.” Strange Fire, March 14, 2019. http://www.strangefirecollective.com/qa-jonathan-mark-jackson. Turri, Scott. “Interrogating the Past: Sonya Clark Interviewed by Scott Turri – BOMB Magazine.” Bomb, July 4, 2019. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/interrogating-the-past-sonya-clark-interviewed/. Valentine, Victoria. “Rico Gatson Installed a Series of Powerful, Radiating Portraits of Historic Cultural Figures in a Bronx Subway Station.” Culture Type, January 26, 2019. Accessed November 2, 2020. https://www.culturetype.com/2019/01/26/rico-gatson-installed-a-series-of-powerful-radiating-portraits-of-historic-cultural-figures-in-a-bronx-subway-station/. Further Reading on Blackness and Visual Culture: Brooks, Daphne A. Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2006. Browne, Simone. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham, 2015. Campt, Tina M. Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. Copeland, Huey. Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Fleetwood, Nicole R. Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Gillespie, Michael Boyce. Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. New York: Routledge, 2014. Peabody, Rebecca. Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021. Wallace, Michele. Dark Designs and Visual Culture. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2004. Ward, LaCharles. ““Keep Runnin’ Bro”: Carrie Mae Weems and the Visual Act of Refusal.” Black Camera: The New Series 9, no. 2 (2018): 82–109. Lili M. Kim Cha, Marn J. Koreans in Central California (1903-1957): A Study of Settlement and Transnational Politics. Lanham: University Press of America, 2010. Choi, Hyaeweol. Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea: New Women, Old Ways. Berkeley: University of California, 2009. Fujitani, Takashi. Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Kim, Lili M. “How Koreans Repealed Their ‘Enemy Alien’ Status: Korean Americans’ Identity, Culture, and National Pride in Wartime Hawai‘i,” in From the Land of Hibiscus: Koreans in Hawai‘i, edited by Yong-ho Ch’oe. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007. Paik Lee, Mary. Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011. Patterson, Wayne. The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawai‘i, 1903–1973. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000. Yang Murrary, Alice. Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008. Yoo, David. Contentious Spirits: Religion in Korean American History, 1903–1945. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. Samantha Presnal Albala, Ken. “Cookbooks as Historical Documents.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food History, edited by Jeffrey M. Pilcher. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Bower, Anne. Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997. Certeau, Michel de, Luce Giard, and Pierre Mayol. The Practice of Everyday Life. Vol. 2, Living and Cooking. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998 (1980). Fisher, M. F. K. “The Anatomy of a Recipe.” In With Bold Knife and Fork. 1969; repr., London: Random House, 1993. Fisher, M. F. K. How to Cook a Wolf. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942. Floyd, Janet, and Laurel Forster. The Recipe Reader: Narrative-Contexts-Traditions. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004. Pilcher, Jeffrey. M. “Embodied Imagination in Recent Writings on Food History.” American Historical Review 121, no. 3 (2016): 861–87. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/121.3.861. Shapiro, Laura. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories. New York: Viking, 2017. Theophano, Janet. Eat My […]