EDITORIAL: Celebrate your awesome, Asian heritage


Two children of the Mochida family who, with their parents, are awaiting an evacuation bus in Hayward, Calif. The youngster on the right holds a sandwich given to her by one of a group of women who were present from a local church. The family unit is kept intact during evacuation and at War Relocation Authority centers, where evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed for the duration. (Photo from the U.S. National Archive: Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, compiled 1942 – 1945)

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time for celebrations and festivities throughout the United States. And Asia, being the planet’s largest and most populated continent, is host to almost too many countries to name, each with its own rich culture. Most of them have representation in the United States, as do the many islands in the Pacific.


The Chin Quan Chan family of Seattle, c. 1911. (Photo from the U.S. National Archives: Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, compiled ca. 1892 – ca. 1920)

AAPIs make up less than 6 percent of the U.S. population, but, according to the 2010 Census, its Asian population grew faster than any other race group between 2000 and 2010.

The commemorative month originated in 1977, when U.S. 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 10 days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week.

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.

The House resolution was followed by a similar Senate bill introduced by Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Both bills passed, and on Oct. 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.

We celebrate everyone with origins in the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific Islands who’ve made the Northwest their home. See you at the Seattle Center on May 4! (end)

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