Karen J. Leong

Karen J. Leong is an associate professor of Women and Gender Studies and director of Asian Pacific American Studies at Arizona State University. She is also co-coordinator of the Japanese Americans in Arizona Oral History Project, a collaboration between the JACL Arizona Chapter and ASU APAS.

Updated May 30, 2008

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Enduring Communities

Japanese Americans in Arizona

Today’s Arizona has hosted multiple civilizations for thousands of years. During the first millennium A.D., the Huhugam established villages in Arizona’s Lower Gila Valley and the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico. Distinct indigenous cultures, including the Maricopa, Navajo, Apache, Walipai, Yavapai, Aravaipai, Pima, Pinal, Chiricahua, Cocopah, Hopi, Havasupai, Pascua Yaqui, Kaibab-Paiute, and Quechan coexisted throughout the area. But with sixteenth-century Spanish colonization and eventual settlements here, tensions flared between colonists and Indian nations.

The region underwent more dramatic change in the aftermath of the 1821 Mexican Revolution in which Mexico overthrew Spanish rule. Manifest Destiny motivated the arrival of land-seeking …

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