Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


It’s May, and that means it is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. A time to celebrate and appreciate different cultures. A chance to recognize the accomplishments of Asian Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and Native Hawaiians.

Asian Americans are our fastest growing racial group in the U.S. There are about 18.4 million living in the United States, representing more than 30 different nationalities and ethnic groups. 

They have also faced great discrimination. Historically, Asian Americans get scapegoated frequently. Just think back to World War II, when Japanese Americans were relocated to internment camps due to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Or recently, when Chinese Americans were facing daily assault and degradation from those blaming them for the COVID epidemic. 

But Asian Americans have played a pivotal role in shaping our nation. They built the Transcontinental Railroad, as well as pushed for change in child labor laws and fought in multiple wars.

The other group we are honoring during this month is Pacific Islander Americans. There are many islands that make up this area, but the ones you most likely know are Easter Island, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Iwo Jima. Many of these islands are popular vacation destinations with their beaches and local life being the most significant appeal. 

It is believed that the first Pacific Islander in America was a Tongan man who came to Utah in 1924 for more education. He was accompanied by a Mormon missionary when he came to the United States. The missionary returned to Tongan with the man. When he returned to Utah, more men came with him. The first full Tongan family came to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1956. 

If you want to learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, try books like Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong or All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. Or you can check out movies like The Half Of It or Minari. Take the time to learn more about other cultures.