Dale Hom has been the driving force behind many partnerships between the Asian Pacific Islander community and the U.S. Forest Service. His low-key respectful manner – born of a background as a “Beacon Hill” boy – may be a key to his success. He attended Cleveland High School and graduated from the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources. He has carried his community knowledge and cultural sensitivity into his 35-year career with the Forest Service.
Hom works as Forest Supervisor at the Olympic National Forest, providing leadership for activities on the Olympic National Forest, including cultural resources management. His agency has worked with the Wing Luke Asian Museum since 1989 to interpret Asian Pacific Islander heritage in the American West. These partnerships have included Chinese heritage conferences, guided field tours, and archeological excavations.
Ron Chew, former executive director of the Museum, said the Museum’s efforts to retrace the untold history of Chinese miners, fishermen, railroad workers and farmers were largely Hom’s doing: “He’s the one who told us about these abandoned archaeological sites throughout the Pacific Northwest where there used to be hundreds and thousands of Asian settlers before harsh economic conditions and discrimination drove them out.”
Aleta Eng, Partnership Specialist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, said that thanks to Hom’s leadership, the Forest Service has provided summer internships to over 20 API youth from the International District Housing Alliance. Even with a ‘non-stop schedule,’” Eng said, Hom has made it a priority to mentor younger employees and “build a cadre committed to community engagement.”
Hom recalls many instances of mislabeled artifacts found on Forest Service excavation sites, artifacts that were the same objects he saw still in use in his grandmother’s house.
He believes the community – it elders and others immersed in the culture – have a crucial role in interpreting this history.
When he entered the natural resource profession, Hom says, there were few Asian PacificAmericans. “It was like being a pioneer,” he said. “Ironically, there was evidence of early Asian pioneers everywhere on the national forest that I worked, and it brought great comfort in realizing that.”