My name is Billy Vue and I am a summer intern at the Minnesota DNR in Waterville. As a first-generation Hmong student, I am often reminded of my history of migration, genocide and assimilation.
The Hmong people are a small ethnic group that originated from southeast Asia with no designated country. I have felt a great amount of pressure as a first generation student to uphold my culture on top of paving paths in a new land, a common experience many others face as well. Being allowed to represent and work in my role as the fisheries intern for the Minnesota DNR has allowed me to gain an array of experience and skills that alleviate pressures I experience.
With my heritage and time at the Minnesota DNR, I have had the opportunity to find ways to bridge these two parts of my life. In addition to my position as an intern with the MNDNR, I am also a student who currently attends the University of Wisconsin River-Falls. In the future, I plan to use the education, skills and experiences that I have gained to apply them in a Minnesota DNR fish and wildlife position.
My passion for fishing began within my Hmong community. Fishing in the Hmong community can be rooted back to Laos, where we lived a hunters and gatherers lifestyle. The main sources of income for Hmong people were either farming or hunting. Therefore, these were embedded into our livelihood outside of making income as well. Through generations, our means of living shifted to hobbies. This is now widely seen within my generation and those after.
Common experiences that Hmong families can relate to are fishing trips with their families or even riding a bike to the lake nearby to catch panfish. In my fishing experiences, I have found it to be one of the most enjoyable hobbies that have strong connections to my heritage.
Nonetheless, I would like to continue expanding this hobby into my future education and work.
Throughout my time with the DNR, some of the things that I performed were identifying fish species for Index of Biotic Integrity surveys, conducting lake surveys, boat electrofishing, hatchery work, caring for fish. The IBI surveys consist of pulling a 50 ft seine and backpack shocking the shore. Doing so allowed us to scoop up the smaller fishes to identify, count and record. The lake survey work consisted of placing trap nets along the shore and setting gill nets in deeper water. This type of survey would offer us the ability to take structures and length from the fish caught.
Structures taken from fish include scales, otilith, cleithrum, and clipped dorsal fins. Later on, these structures will be used to read and tell the age of individual fish.
As my internship nears its end, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the many experiences that I have encountered this summer. This internship has solidified my considerations of working with the MN DNR in the future. The work that I performed this summer is something that I want to continue doing in my career. I enjoy working with fish and learning more about the different species and habitats there are in the lakes of Minnesota.
I also believe that working with the DNR in the future will allow me, as a person of color, to give back to my community and fellow anglers in various ways. This would open doors for other ethnic people to learn more about the DNR itself and to see where and how their contributions might fit into continuing to keep Minnesota’s fishing opportunity as some of the best in the country.