The Department of Anthropology at The University of New Mexico is celebrating Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May with a website page full of resources about history, racism, culture, and many other topics.

UNM Asian American Center
Asian American and Pacific Islander Resource Center opened at UNM in 2022

The effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States began in the late 1970s and took over 10 years to make it a permanent month-long celebration.

In 1977, New York representative Frank Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 540, which proposed proclaiming the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar joint resolution the same year. When the resolutions did not pass, representative Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007 the following year, which requested the president to proclaim a week during the first 10 days of May starting in 1979, including May 7 and 10, as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

After the House and the Senate passed the Resolution, President Jimmy Carter signed it into Public Law 95-419 on October 5, 1978. From 1980 to 1990, each president passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress expanded the observance from a week to a month. May was annually designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 under the George H. W. Bush administration with the passing of Public Law 102-540. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was renamed as AAPI Heritage Month in 2009.

President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month on April 29.

"During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities; of brave immigrants who, motivated by the promise of possibilities, picked up their lives and found new homes here; of native peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial; and of community leaders shaping a brighter future for us all.  Throughout our history, they have represented the bigger story of who we are as Americans and embodied the truth that our diversity is our strength as a Nation."  Read the full proclamation on the White House website.

He also observed that Vice President Kamala Harris is the first person of South Asian descent to serve as Vice President.

More information from the federal government is available on the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month site.

Among the resources on the UNM campus for students is the Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Center, which was established during the 2021-2022 academic year. The mission of the Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Center is to build a sense of belonging for students of Asian/Pacific Islander/Desi American Heritage at UNM and provide culturally relevant programs that cultivate Asian/Pacific Islander leaders within communities.

The Anthropology Department website page also includes information, videos, and photos about UNM scholars, research, local, state, and national events, and much more.

For more on Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage, go to the Anthropology department website page.

Image: Granada Relocation Center National Historic Landmark, a WWII Japanese American internment camp also called Amache, in Colorado.

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