Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

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Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
Flickr - The U.S. Army - West Point Asian Pacific American Observance Celebration.jpg
APAHM mine
Observed byUnited States
Staff Sgt. Kaimi Kawai, an information management specialist, 24th Detachment, 1101st U.S. Army Hawaii Garrison Support Unit, attempts to perform a Tahitian dance with dancers from the Dizanne Productions dance company during an Asian-Pacific American Heritage month celebration.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), now officially proclaimed Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,[1] takes place in May. It celebrates the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.


In June 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a United States House of Representatives resolution to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week.[2][3][4] A similar bill was introduced in the Senate a month later by Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga.[2] "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."[2][5][6] President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration on October 5, 1978.[2]

House Resolution 540[edit]

"A joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim annually a week during the first 10 days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week." This resolution as well as Senate Joint Resolution 72 did not pass through however, did lead to the passing of Rep. Horton's House Joint Resolution 1007 which passed through both the House and the Senate and ultimately signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419. In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress to extend Asian-American Heritage Week to a month;[7][8][9] May was officially designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month two years later.[5][10][11][12] On May 1, 2009 President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation which recalls the challenges faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and celebrates their great and significant contributions to our society.[13]

Introduction to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage[edit]

The history of North America is shaped by the stories of immigrants from Asia and the Pacific and the native people of the Pacific Islands. While some of the earliest Asian immigrants arrived from China, Japan, India, and Korea, immigration reforms tied to U.S. civil rights legislation brought even more groups to the United States—such as Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Indonesians, the Hmong and other peoples from South and Central Asia. Discover these wide-ranging stories preserved and interpreted in our nation’s parks, trails, and historic sites.

During the 1800s, the discovery of gold in California and political upheaval in China triggered unprecedented waves of immigration from Asian countries to the United States. Asian immigrants contributed significantly to the history of American nation-building and westward expansion.  At Fort Vancouver’s Kanaka village  Hawaiian men were among the multi-ethnic workforce in the agricultural fields and sawmills of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) operations.  At Golden Spike National Historic Site  in Box Elder County, Utah, visitors can learn about the over 11,000 Chinese immigrants employed by the Central Pacific Railroad of California. Between 1863 and 1869, Chinese, Irish, and Anglo American laborers endured harsh working conditions in order to build the Transcontinental Railway.

Initially welcomed as a much needed labor source in mining, railroad, and agriculture, Asian immigrants soon became a source of resentment for those Americans who thought of themselves as white.  They began to blame Asians for the economic decline and high unemployment after the Civil War. The U.S. government passed a series of measures to stem the influx of immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 severely restricted immigration by barring Chinese laborers from entering the country for ten years and made Chinese immigrants already within the United States ineligible for U.S. citizenship. In 1907, a “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the United States and Japan also limited the immigration of Japanese laborers.

The Angel Island U.S. Immigration Station in California’s San Francisco Bay was one of the primary ports of entry for Asian immigrants seeking to enter the United States despite these restrictions. While it was in operation from 1910-1940, thousands of immigrants were detained for days, months—even years in extreme instances—as they underwent medical examinations and immigration hearings. Poems written by detainees during their stay on the island survive today—etched into the wooden walls of the detention barracks.

In the wake of exclusionary immigration policies and racial discrimination, early Asian immigrants nevertheless successfully built ethnic enclaves throughout the United States. In the Sacramento delta, the small settlements of Locke and Walnut Grove were once thriving nihonmachi’s (Japan towns) and Chinatowns that were the homes of immigrants who flocked to California during the Gold Rush. The Stedman-Thomas Historic District of Ketchikan, Alaska, was home to a diverse community of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos who helped build the region’s fishing industry.

Within these enclaves, surviving buildings tell the stories of how Asian Americans assimilated into local communities while retaining their ancestral cultures. Ah Louis, or On Wong, was a prominent Chinese-American pioneer, businessman, and labor organizer. Located in the heart of San Louis Obispo’s Chinatown, the Ah Louis Store served as the local Asian communities’ general store, bank, and post office. In Castroville, California, the Castroville Japanese Language School stands as a reminder of Japanese survival and community uplift. From 1936 to 1942, the building had served as language school, hosted Buddhist religious services, and provided much needed amenities for California’s Japanese Americans during a period of heightened racial discrimination.

While America’s population expanded with the influx of immigrants to the mainland, other groups in the Pacific fell under U.S. control at the turn of the 20th century without stepping foot on the North American continent. The United States acquired Guam, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia during the wars of 1898. One persistent reminder of the consequences of U.S. empire-building is ‘Iolani Palace, on Honolulu, Hawai’i. In 1893, a group of American, European, and native-born planter elites—with the support of the U.S. government and the aid of the U.S. military— staged a coup d’etat that overthrew Hawai’i’s sovereign,Queen Lili’uokalani. For Native Hawaiians, the palace stands for nearly 2,000 years of culture on the Hawaiians Islands and remains an enduring symbol of Hawaiian independence, even after they gained statehood in 1959.

By the mid-1900s, generations of Asian Americans had built enduring communities throughout the United States. However, Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 revived existing hostility towards Japanese Americans. In response to public outcry against the attack and widespread fear of Japanese American disloyalty, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which forcibly relocated over 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast to one of ten Relocation Centers. The Minidoka National Historic Site is one of the places that interprets this largest forced relocation of American citizens.

Despite the denial of their civil liberties and constitutional rights, many Japanese Americans still felt it was their duty to contribute to the war effort. Initially barred from enlisting following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the armed forces later formed a segregated unit for Japanese American volunteers from the mainland and Hawaiian Islands. The men of 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team fought on the battlefields of Italy, Germany, and southern France while most of their families remained in internment camps for the duration of the war. James Hishinuma left his family farm in Colorado—listed in the National Register of Historic Places—to fight for his country. Because of the sacrifices of Hishinuma and men like him, the 442nd would go on to become the most decorated unit of its size in American military history. Currently, over 20 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent live in the United States, totaling about 6 percent of the U.S. population. As diverse communities built strong roots in the United States, they retained cultural heritages that stretch across the globe. As the nation’s storyteller, the National Park Service strives to tell the stories of ordinary and extraordinary Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders preserved in our nation’s parks, memorials, and historic sites. more info. Visit the National Park Service Telling All Americans' Stories portal to learn more about this topic and American heritage themes and histories. 

Medal of Honor Recipients[edit]

Philippine-American War[edit]

PVT José B. Nísperos


Fireman 2nd Class Telesforo de la Cruz Trinidad (only Medal of Honor issued in peacetime).

World War II[edit]

CPT Jose Calugas, Sr., SSG Rudolph B. Davila, PVT Barney Fushimi Hajiro, PVT Mikio Hasemoto, SGT Joe J. Hayashi, PVT Shizuya Hayashi, 2LT Daniel K. Inouye, TSGT Yeiki Kobashigawa, SSG Robert T. Kuroda, PFC Kaoru Moto, PFC Sadao S. Munemori, PFC Kiyoshi k. Muranaga, PVT Masato Nakae, PVT Shinyei Nakamine, PFC William Kanzo Nakamura, PFC Joe M. Nishimoto, SGT Allan Masaharu Ohara, TSGT James K. Okubo, TSGT Yukio Okutsu, PFC Frank H. Ono, SSG Kazuo Otani, PVT George Taro "Joe" Sakato, SGT Ted "Tak" Tanouye, CPT Francis Brown Wai

Korean War[edit]

SSG Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura, SGT Leroy A. Mendonca (youngest MOH recipient), PFC Herbert K. Pilila'au, PFC Anthony T. Kaho'ohanohano

Vietnam War[edit]

CPL Terry Teruo Kawamura, SFC Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith, SFC Rodney Jamus Takahashi Yano

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus[edit]

Co-Founded by Norman Y. Mineta on May 16, 1994, the caucus is made up of members of Congress from Asian and Pacific Islander descent or are advocates dedicated to the community, striving to promote well-being.


"To ensure that legislation passed by the United States Congress, to the greatest extent possible, provides for the full participation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and reflects the concerns and needs of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities;

To educate other Members of Congress about the history, contributions and concerns of Asian American and Pacific Islanders;

To work with other Members and Caucuses to protect and advance the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans;

To establish policies on legislation and issues relating to persons of Asian and/or Pacific Islands ancestry who are citizens or nationals of, residents of, or immigrants to, the United States, its territories and possessions; and

To provide a structure to coordinate the efforts, and enhance the ability, of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Members of Congress to accomplish those goals."[14]



Asian Pacific and Asian Americans of all ethnicities and languages come together to celebrate their heritage through many activities such as dancing, sharing traditional meals, observing and appreciating their rich history. Many more diverse beliefs and practices come with the already diversified Asian American community, with many different religions, traditions, and practices.


Asian American actors, actresses and celebrities play a major role in the adjusting to the American lifestyle. They start trends that their kinfolk alike begin to follow along like the kanji tattoo sported by former Seattle Mariners, American League Asian of the Year and Most Valuable Player Ichiro Suzuki. Furthermore, actresses like Lucy Liu take on major female roles in movies that send a message of hope and progress in Asian American eyes.


During APAHM, communities celebrate the achievements and contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans with community festivals, government-sponsored activities and educational activities for students.[15]


  • National Queer and Asian Conference,[16] first begun 2007

Northeast and East:

West Coast:

South and Southeast:


Specific nationalities[edit]

  • Taiwanese American Cultural Festival[34] in San Francisco, first begun in 1992

See also[edit]

Other history months
Heritage months



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  2. ^ a b c d "About – Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  3. ^ "Joint Resolution: Authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim the 7-day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week"" (PDF). Library of Congress. October 5, 1978. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  4. ^ Pub.L. 95–419
  5. ^ a b Pub.L. 102–450
  6. ^ "Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Pub.L. 101–283
  9. ^ "Joint Resolution: To designate May 1991 and May 1992 as "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month"" (PDF). Library of Congress. May 14, 1991. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  10. ^ "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month | Law Library of Congress". April 1, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month". Law Library of Congress. Archived from the original on October 6, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  12. ^ "An Act: To designate May of each year as"Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month"" (PDF). Library of Congress. October 23, 1992. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  13. ^ "Presidential Proclamation 8369 of May 1, 2009" (PDF).
  14. ^ "Purpose, Mission & Goals". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), United States House of Representatives. Retrieved February 22, 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "Celebrate APA Heritage Month : Asian-Nation :: Asian American History, Demographics, & Issues". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  16. ^ "アリシアクリニック【口コミ・評判まとめ】". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Festival". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  18. ^ "Sample Page". Silk Screen. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  19. ^ "Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month | Lan Su Chinese Garden". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  20. ^ "Asian Cultural Festival San Diego". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  21. ^ "Home". Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  22. ^ "Welcome to the 2015 Pacific Rim Street Festival Site!". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "Festivals and Events | Oakland Asian Cultural Center". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  24. ^ "Asian Heritage Street Celebration". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  25. ^ "Live at Seattle Center". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  26. ^ "Home > Wing Luke Museum". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  27. ^ "Index of /". Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  28. ^ Government, Student. "Asian American Student Union". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  29. ^ "asian-festival-2015". asian-festival-2015. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  30. ^ "APAHA – Programs". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  31. ^ "AAPI Heritage Month Celebration | Asian American Cultural Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  32. ^ "2017 Columbus Asian Festival | Dragon Boat, May 21, 2017, Asian Festival 27 May, 10am to 7 pm and 28 May, 10am-6pm on 1755 E Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio, FREE Admission, FREE Parking, Free Health Screenings, Pets with organizer permission". Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  33. ^ "2016 Cleveland Asian Festival | 21–22 May, 11am to 7 pm on Payne Ave. between E. 30th St & E. 27th St, FREE Admission, FREE Parking, No Pets". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  34. ^ "2014 | Taiwanese American Cultural Festival". Archived from the original on April 23, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2016.{%22source%22:%22legislation%22,%22search%22:%22hj+res+540%22,%22congress%22:95}

External links[edit]