Interviewee: Thang "Peter" Nguyen

Role: Community Liaison, Mississippi State University Coastal Research & Extension Center

Date of Interview: 2/16/12

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Thang "Peter" Nguyen comes from a long tradition of family fishermen in his native Vung Tau, Vietnam. After escaping the Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, Peter's family moved to New Orleans, then settled in Biloxi, shucking oysters and shrimping the Gulf waters. Peter left the industry after Hurricane Katrina to become a community liaison for Mississippi State University's Coastal Research and Extension Center. He reflects on the Vietnamese community's participation in the BP Vessels of Opportunity program after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and laments his children losing the Vietnamese language.


All of them, every one of them. They were making – and when I – when our job – I work [with] Extension day and night. I went out there, outreach, and I looking for someone that haven't get paid or someone don't have a job. I mean, I saw people when their big boat get paid and ice boat get paid. But the little guy and having problem with their engines, they can't work. And I go out there and look for them and tell them and get their name and number and give it to the BP people and tell them, "These guy need to go to work, too," because he think that they don't speak English, they don't know. And so that's why I step in and help them. And a week later they start calling me, and I call him, but by the time that they – they still get paid, but those guys about – when I see about a couple of month or four or five month, they get well fed already. I mean and it's not right. And we have meeting and meeting every week, and I go to place and place, and I tell them about, "This guy, you need to put some of these guy not having, not on work, too. They need to make a living, too. They can't feed or support their family, or even they have problem or something. You need to give them check so they can fix their engine so they can go back to work." So I got that out of the way, and they were so happy and thrilled about it. But the BP paid big boat and ice boat, freezer boat, very good, very well. I mean, so they have, out of the way, so.

I've been married for like twenty years now, and none of my son and daughter speak Vietnamese. That's what hurt me. And I try to tell them, I say, "You go to school. You go to school, and you speak English at school. When you come home, you talk Vietnamese with Daddy and Mommy." And they walk home. They watch TV. They hang out with friend. And I try to teach them Vietnamese, but my wife, she don't speak Vietnamese as well as I do. And when she speak with me, she kind of have accent. And when I twenty year been shrimping out there, and she raised my children, if I'm not home, speaking it, there you go. Now, not even, none of them are speaking Vietnamese. My oldest son, if I speak Vietnamese, he can understand, but he can't talk back to me or speak back to me because the mother always talk, speak English. And that's what really hurt me the most that they – right now we just speak English in my home, (chuckles) and we are Vietnamese. And I see like my friend or cousin, and I saw their children speaking Vietnamese, and I just feel so sad about it. Nothing I can do, but I just wasted my time when I was being fisherman out there too long and from the beginning. And that's what hurt me.

To listen to Peter's interview, please click here.