National Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

This National Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, HSPRD celebrates the indelible achievements and diversity of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities and advocates, which encompasses more than 50 ethnic groups and 100 languages. After Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Week received federal recognition, Jeanie Jew, a former staff member on Capitol Hill, began advocating for a commemorative month celebrating Asian Americans in the 1970s. Jew was the great-granddaughter of M.Y. Lee, who immigrated to the U.S. from China and helped build the transcontinental railroad. Jew’s tireless efforts, along with Ruby Moy, the Chief of Staff to Congressman Frank Horton, led to Congress designating a week-long commemoration in May, which grew to a month-long designation in the 1990s. May was chosen for the annual commemoration because the first known immigrant from Japan arrived in the U.S. in May 1843 and the transcontinental railroad was completed in May 1869, in large part because of the efforts of about 20,000 immigrants of Chinese heritage.

This month also specifically recognizes and celebrates Native Hawaiian communities, who have stewarded their land for thousands of years. Native Hawaiian advocates and communities have persevered since the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and the U.S. unlawfully annexed Hawaii in 1898, launching decades of forced cultural suppression. Queen Lili’uokalani, the last sovereign monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1898, “I especially protest against such assertion of ownership as a taking of property without due process of law and without just or other compensation.” A century later, in the “Apology Resolution” of 1993, the U.S. government finally acknowledged its unlawful overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and apologized for “the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination.” The fight for true sovereignty continues to this day.

Join us in celebrating this year’s theme of Advancing Leaders Through Innovation, which, as the Federal Asian Pacific American Council has stated, pays “homage to the visionaries and trailblazers who have shaped . . . AANHPI history” and to those who “continue to influence our collective future.” 

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