Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).


  • Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress (spearheaded by Representative Frank Horton of New York and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawai’i). They chose the first ten days of May to commemorate the history and contributions of Asian American communities here in the U.S. The week’s observance became a month, the very month in which the first Japanese immigrants came to the U.S. in 1843.
  • The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have contributed significantly to many facets of American culture and society, including science and medicine, literature and art, sports and recreation, government and politics, and activism and law. In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first Asian American Vice President of the United States. In film history, AAPI people, stories, and traditions have become more visible with South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2019 and the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021, debuting Marvel’s first Asian superhero.
  • Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the unique journey of all AAPI immigrants and citizens in the United States and their unique life experiences, traditions and cultures. 

How to observe:

  • Learn the difference between Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
    • Asian American is defined as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent.” The six largest sub-groups of Asian Americans are from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and India.
    • Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian is defined as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands.”
  • Cook dishes inspired by the AAPI cultures
  • Discuss and practice cultural awareness and empathy
  •  Seek out art, films, research created by Asian American and Pacific Islanders to further share about their history and impact on our society. 


Additional Resources:


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