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Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage


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National AAPI Heritage Month Resources

What is 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 Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1978, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

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.

Since his presidency began in 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has included Native Hawaiians in the month's title, restyling it as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders Month (AANHPI). While Native Hawaiians have always been included in the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander's month, President Biden wished to draw attention to the Native population of Hawaii specifically in the face of the economic hardship and gentrification Native Hawaiians have faced, exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

(Source: Library of Congress)

Who is Considered Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander American?


Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

(Source: United States Census Bureau; Image: Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence)