Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
This month honors those whose heritage is connected to a very wide region, peopled with many different cultures!
More than 40 countries whose heritage is connected to the continent of Asia 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)
- Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
In 1978, a joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The first 10 days of May were chosen to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869.
In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration that is now known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Per a 1997 U.S. Office of Management and Budget directive, the Asian or Pacific Islander racial category was separated into two categories: one being Asian and the other Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. Thus, this Facts for Features contains a section for each.In the United States Census, Asian American and Pacific Islanders are racial categories comprised of at least 30 different ethnic groups and many more cultural groups.
Asia is home to about 4.46 billion people speaking about 2,300 languages. Many languages spoken across Asia and the Pacific Islands are remarkably complex and use pitch to convey meaning and/or grammatical function (verb tense, for example). The meaning of a word or phrase is altered by the tone used. For single-syllable words, tone alone can change the meaning. The Thai word “na,” for example, means “rice paddy,” “face,” “aunt/uncle/younger than,” and “thick,” depending on different tones.
Traditional AAPI names are often a way of respecting heritage. In the past, AAPI members have had to come up with American versions of their names, but this leads to splitting their identity and today, many are going back to using their traditional names. It only takes a few minutes to learn to say your colleague’s name correctly and it goes a long way in building a stronger connection. This is true in many cultures, in addition to AAPI. Here is the link for more information: https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/