Create a Washington State Commission on Pacific Islander Affairs

Create a Washington State Commission on Pacific Islander Affairs

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Michael Tuncap started this petition to Governor Jay Inslee

MISSION: To improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, American Samoans, Micronesians, Tongans & Other Pacific Islanders by creating a WA State Commission on Pacific Islanders ensuring their access to participation in the fields of government, business, education, health, and other areas.

Revise WA RCW 43.117.010 to new legislative declaration

The Pacific Islanders of Washington State affirm that the public policy of this state is to ensure equal opportunity for all of its citizens. Furthermore, the Pacific Islander communities and the coalition of Pacific Islander Studies Institute finds that Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, American Samoans, & Other Pacific Islanders have unique indigenous histories, cultures, and special challenges they face around issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

It is the purpose of this resolution to request funding for a newly formed Commission on Native Pacific Islanders to improve the well-being of Pacific Islanders by institutionalizing equity & their access to participation in the fields of government, business, education, and other areas.

Governor Jay Inslee announced a $365 million equity policy package as part of his 2021-2023 state budget proposal in a press conference on December 15, 2020. This policy package directs state agencies and legislators to center budgetary decisions and legislation around equity.

We hope that the state legislature will govern for racial equity & become particularly concerned with the plight of those Pacific Islanders who, for economic, political, or environmental factors, find themselves disadvantaged or isolated from American society and the benefits of equal opportunity. We hope that the legislature will commit to enhance services to all Pacific Islanders so that they may achieve full equality and inclusion in American society.

The indigenous Pacific Islander Studies Institute 2010-2020 finds that it is necessary to aid Pacific Islanders in obtaining governmental services in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of all the residents of this state. Therefore the legislature deems it necessary to create a commission to carry out the purposes of this chapter.

Expand WA RCW 43.117.020 - Definitions

As used in this chapter unless the context indicates otherwise:

  1. "Pacific Islanders" include persons of Native Hawaiian, Chamorro, Samoan, Guamanian, Tongan, Maori, Marshallese, Fijian, Tahitian, Chuukese, Micronesian, Palauan, Rofalawash, and Pacific Island ancestry.
  2. "Commission" means the Washington state commission on Pacific Islander Affairs in the Office of the Governor.
  3. Native Hawaiians & Other Pacific Islanders were added to the US Census in 2000 and must be disaggregated to meet federal data compliance standards.

Revise WA RCW 43.117.030 - Request for a new Pacific Islander Commission established by 2021

There is a request for a new Washington state commission on Pacific Islander affairs in the office of the governor by 2021. The now existing Pacific-American advisory segment of the CAPA council shall become included in the commission upon enactment of this chapter. The council may transfer all office equipment, including files and records to the commission.

[1995 c 67 § 4; 1974 ex.s. c 140 § 3.]

Revise WA RCW 43.117.040 - Membership—Terms—Vacancies—Travel expenses—Quorum—Executive director

  1. The commission shall consist of twelve members appointed by the governor. In making such appointments, the governor shall give due consideration to recommendations submitted to him or her by the commission. The governor may also consider nominations of members made by the various Pacific Islander organizations in the state. The governor shall consider nominations for membership based upon maintaining a balanced distribution of Pacific Islander-ethnic, geographic, sex, age, and occupational representation, where practicable.
  2. Appointments shall be for two years except in case of a vacancy, in which event appointment shall be only for the remainder of the unexpired term for which the vacancy occurs. Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments.
  3. Members shall receive reimbursement for travel expenses incurred in the performance of their duties in accordance with RCW 43.03.050 and 43.03.060 as now existing or hereafter amended.
  4. Seven members shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of conducting business.
  5. The governor shall appoint an executive director & based upon recommendations made by the council.
  6. The executive director shall hire a Project Coordinator based upon the recommendations made by the commission.

Revise WA RCW 43.117.070 - Duties of commission—State agencies to give assistance

  1. The commission shall examine and define issues pertaining to the rights and needs of Pacific Islander Americans, and make recommendations to the governor and state agencies with respect to desirable changes in program and law.
  2. The commission shall advise such state government agencies on the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated policies, plans, and programs focusing on the special problems and needs of Pacific Islanders.
  3. The commission shall coordinate and assist with statewide celebrations during the first two weeks of April that recognize the contributions to the state by Pacific Islander Americans in the arts, sciences, commerce, and education.
  4. The commission shall coordinate and assist educational institutions, public entities, and private organizations with celebrations of Native Pacific Islanders day that recognize the contributions to the state by Native Hawaiians, Chamorros & Samoans in the arts, sciences, commerce, and education.
  5. Each state department and agency shall provide appropriate and reasonable assistance to the commission as needed in order that the commission may carry out the purposes of this chapter.

Revise WA RCW 43.117.080 - Promotion of equal opportunity and benefits

In carrying out its duties, the commission may establish such relationships with local governments and private industry as may be needed to promote equal opportunity and benefits to Pacific Americans in government, education, economic development, employment, and services.

Expand RCW 43.117.110 - Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

The legislature declares that:

  1. April of each year will be known as Pacific Islander heritage month;
  2. The first two weeks of April is designated as a time for people of this state to celebrate the contributions to the state by Pacific Americans in the arts, sciences, commerce, and education; and
  3. Educational institutions, public entities, and private organizations are encouraged to designate time for appropriate activities in commemoration of the lives, history, achievements, and contributions of Pacific Americans.

Facts from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders:

  • In May 2010, the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Alliance (NHPI) and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) issued joint guidance advocating that the preferred and appropriate reference to these communities should be Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI).
  • The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has conducted outreach efforts to include all Pacific Islander Americans including Native Hawaiians, Chamoru, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese, Palauan, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Yapese, Kosraen, and others in the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian Pacific Islander groupings.
  • Pacific Islanders include diverse populations who differ in language and culture. They are of Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian backgrounds.
  • The Polynesian group is the largest and includes Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, and Tahitians.
  • The Micronesian group, which is the second-largest, includes primarily Chamoru from Guam but also includes other Chamoru and Carolinian from the Mariana Islands, Marshallese, Palauans, and various others which include but is not limited to Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Kosraen, and Yapese from the Federated States of Micronesia.
  • Of the Melanesian group, which would include Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji, Fijian‐Americans are the largest in this group.
  • According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 87 4,000 reported Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders, which account for 0.3% of the entire U.S. population.
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, as a group, experienced 2.4% growth between 2007 and 2008, third overall among race groups; Asians and Hispanics were second and first respectively.
  • Native Hawaiians are the largest Pacific Islander group in the U.S. followed by Samoan, and Guamanian, or Chamoru. These three groups account for 74% of the total respondents who reported belonging to a single Pacific Islander group.
  • There are at least 39 different Pacific Island languages spoken as a second language in the American home.
  • 14% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have Limited English Proficiency compared to 9% of the general U.S. population.
  • Proportionally, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are overrepresented in the U.S. Army by 249%, compared to 43% of blacks, 44% of whites, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives 53%.
  • In 2005, the U.S affiliated Pacific Islands of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, as a percentage of their islands' population, had a casualty rate of 36 deaths per million which exceeded that of any U.S. state. Vermont came closest with 16 deaths per million. The national rate is about 5 per million.
  • According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Features, there were over 25,000 single-race Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander military veterans.
  • A greater proportion of Micronesians age 16 and older work or are in the military.
  • Native Hawaiians are over 5 times as likely to experience diabetes between the ages of 1935 (11% vs. 2%) compared to non‐Hawaiians.
  • Native Hawaiians have the highest rate of death s due to cancer compared to any other ethnic group in Hawaii (229 per 100,000) and the third-highest rate in the country.
  • In California, Pacific Islander children have the highest rates among all children who are overweight or obese, putting these children at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers.
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders generally experience poorer health than the American population as a whole: they are more at risk for developing and dying from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.
  • According to the CDC, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have the second-highest rate of diagnoses of HIV infection and the second shortest AIDS survival rate of all Americans.
  • Almost 20% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders Live in poverty while, over 16% lack health coverage.
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living below poverty: 18% (U.S. average living below poverty: 12%).
  • Poverty rates are higher among Pacific Islanders who have a per capita income 27% below the national average.
  • Nearly 18% of all Micronesians in the U.S. live in poverty, compared to just over 13% of the general population. In California, the poverty rates are comparable, but in Hawaii, Micronesians have nearly three times the poverty rates of the general population across all categories except the elderly.
  • 15% of single-race Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islander s hold at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 28% for the entire population and 5% hold a graduate or professional degree compared to 10 % of the entire population.
  • Pacific Islanders are half as likely to have a bachelor’s degree in comparison with 27% for the total population and 49% of the Asian American population.
  • Only 29% of Pacific Islanders between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in a college or university, which is comparable to African Americans. In contrast, 39% of non-Hispanic whites and 57% of Asians in the age range are enrolled in college.
  • In 2005, 47.3% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI’s) were enrolled in community colleges. Between 1990 and 2000, AAPI enrollment in community colleges increased by nearly 73.3% compared to 42.2% in public four-year institutions.
  • Research has found that AAPI’s with higher socioeconomic status (SES) were three times more likely to begin college at a selective institution than those in lower SES, with Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders less likely than Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans to begin college at a selective institution.
  • The importance of disaggregation of data within the AAPI community can be seen in bachelor degree attainment rates among ethnic subgroups from a high of 69.1% for Asian Indians to a low of 9.4% for Samoans.
  • Pacific Islanders were more likely to be in service occupations than the total Asian and Pacific Islander group, but less likely to be in managerial or professional occupations.
  • Pacific Islander families are less likely than all other ethnicities to have no workers in the home (9% compared to 13% for the total population).
  • Between the years 2007-2009, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders (628) have the third-highest foreclosure rate per 10,0 00 loans to owner-occupants which originated in 2005‐2008.
  • While Non-Hispanic whites represent the majority of at-risk borrowers, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders also show an increased likelihood of being at‐risk.
  • Pacific Islander renters experience consistent adverse, treatment at the rate of 21.5 percent, which is about the same as the level for African American and Hispanic renters.
  • Most Americans reside in an owner-occupied home while most Micronesians rent. This difference is especially pronounced in Hawaii.

Originally Authored By The Three Generations:

  • *Violeta Terese Tuncap, Grandmother (1957-2020)
  • Michael Tuncap, Father & Professor WA CTCs
  • Carmen Ramento Tuncap, Mother & Health MA
  • Elijah Gumataotao Ramento Tuncap, Grandson
  • Matua Gillett Manaba Acfalle Tuncap, Grandson

In Partnership and Solidarity With:

  • Pacific Islander Studies Institute (2010-present)
  • PIONEER (2001-present)
  • Guam Delegation to the United Nations 
  • Northwest Association of Pacific Americans (2000-2018)
  • Faculty & Staff of Color Conference (FSOCC) PI Affinity Group
  • Students of Color Conference (SOCC) Pacific Islander Caucus
  • Matamai: The VASA in Us - a collection of PI arts (2010)
  • Prutehi Litekyan & Independent Guahan
  • UW Pacific Islander Student Commission (2001-present)

For Further Reading

  1. White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). “Fact Sheet: What You Should Know About Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI’s).” US Department of Education, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI),

  2. Briscoe, Charles, Castro, William M. and Celestial, Robert. The Blue Ribbon Panel Committee Action Report On Radioactive Contamination in Guam Between 1946-1958. from the offices of Senator Angel L.G Santos and Senator Mark Forbes. Hagatna, Guam. 1996.
  3. Camacho, Keith, “Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in The Mariana Islands,” University of Hawai’i, 2005.
  4. Creed, Barbara and Jeanette Hoorn, Body Trade: Captivity, Cannibalism, and Colonialism in the Pacific, Pluto Press, Australia, 2001.
  5. Cristomo, Manny Legacy of Guam: I Kustumbren Chamoru, Agana, Guam Legacy Publications, 1991.
  6. Diaz, Vicente M. 2001. "Deliberating Liberation Day: Memory, Culture and History in Guam" in Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s), T. Fujitani, Geoffrey M. White, and Lisa Yoneyama, eds. Durham: Duke University Press,155-180.
  7. Gailey, Harry The Liberation of Guam: 21 July- 10 August 1944, Corvalis, Oregon, Ballatine Books Inc, 1998.
  8. Hattori, Anne Perez, Colonial Disease: US Naval Health Policies and the Chamorros on Guam 1898-1941. University of Hawai’i Press, 2005.
  9. Leon, M. Consuelo “Foundations of the American Image of the Pacific,” in Asia/ Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, Duke University Press, 1994.
  10. Lenson, Margo King. Pacific Voices Talk Story Volume III, Tui Communications, 2004.
  11. Leon-Guerrero, Victoria “Legacies of War” in United Nations publication, 2006.
  12. Pacific Daily News, “Guam Military Transfer Options Weighed”, Local section, May 22, 2006.Hagatna, Guam.
  13. Perez, Craig Santos. Testimony before the United Nations 4th Committee on decolonization. New York City, NY. October 7. 2008.
  14. Perez, Michael, “Contested Sites: Resistance to U.S Empire”, Ameriasia Journal, 2001.
  15. Perez, Michael P. 2002. “Pacific Identities beyond US Racial Formations: The case of Chamorro ambivalence and flux.” Social Identities 8(3): 457-479.
  16. Perez, Michael P. 2001. “Contested Sites: Pacific Resistance in Guam to U.S. Empire “Amerasia Journal 27(1): 97-114.
  17. Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, Kinalamten Pulitikat: Sinenten I Chamorro: Issues in Guam’s Political Development: The Chamorro Perspective. Hagatna, Guam, 2002.
  18. Rogers, Robert Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam, The University of Hawai’i Press, 1995.
  19. Sanicolas, Brigida Acfalle Salas, Oral History Interview-“Hasso tempon guerra Amerikanu,” October 2003, Atwater, CA.
  20. Spikard, Paul, Wright, Debbie & J. Rhondilla Pacific Diaspora: Island Peoples in the U.S., 2005.
  21. Stone, Robert The American Experience: Radio Bikini, 1988.
  22. Souder-Jaffrey , Laura and Underwood, Robert. “Chamorro Self Determination: The Right of a People, I Derechon I Taotao” Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam. Mangilao, Guam 1987.
  23. Teaiwa, Teresia (s)Pacific Notions: US Nuclear Testing in the Marshall Islands in The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 6, #1, Spring 1994, 87-109, University of Hawaii Press.
  24. Trask, Haunani Kay From A Native Daughter: Colonialism & Sovereignty in Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press. 1999.
  25. Tuhiwai-Smith, Linda Decolonizing Methodologies: Research & Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books Ltd, London & University of Otago Press, New Zealand. 1999.
  26. Palaita, David Ga'oupu, et al. Matamai: The VASA in Us. Matamai Foundation, 2011.

  27. Shigematsu, Setsu, and Keith L. Camacho. Militarized Currents: toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific. University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

*For questions on this research & policy initiative, please contact Professor Michael Tuncap at or 206-214-8969

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