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

The effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) 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 Sen. 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.

Amache Block
Amache internment camp as it looked when people arrived

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 on April 30 recognizing Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“From Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders whose ancestors have called their lands home for hundreds of years to Asian immigrants who have newly arrived and those whose families have been here for generations — AA and NHPI heritage has long been a part of the history of our great country and a defining force in the soul of our Nation.  As artists and journalists, doctors and engineers, business and community leaders, and so much more, AA and NHPI peoples have shaped the very fabric of our Nation and opened up new possibilities for all of us.  I am proud that they serve at the highest levels of my Administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Ambassador Katherine Tai, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Arati Prabhakar, who make this country a better place each and every day.  This year, we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative and President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, who work across government to advance equity, opportunity, and justice for AA and NHPI communities. Read the full proclamation on the White House website.


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, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander heritage, visit the Anthropology department website.


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

Related articles