Recognize and Celebrate the Month of April as the Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Recognize and Celebrate the Month of April as the Pacific Islander Heritage Month

April 8, 2021
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Why this petition matters

Started by Michael Tuncap

The Need for Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Expanded from Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month (May)

Although May is federally recognized as the Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it has not adapted to the indigenous recognition of the Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) in the US Census since 2000.

Since creating the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week (1978) and later expanding it to a month-long celebration (1992), the Pacific Islanders received some recognization in 1997, when the Office of Management and Budget revised Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting, and separated the 1976 racial category of “Asian or Pacific Islander” into two groups: “Asian” & “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander."

Then in February 2010, President Obama issued a statement recognizing that Native Hawaiians are a vital part of this nation's cultural fabric. He supported the Substitute Amendment to H.R. 2314, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, which was legislation crafted to formally extend a federal policy of self-governance and self-determination to Native Hawaiians, achieving parity in the U.S. treatment of its indigenous peoples – American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The month of May was specifically chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the US (1843) as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad (1869), built mostly by Chinese immigrants. For Pacific Islanders, however, many traditional celebrations such as Luau take place in April at most colleges, universities, and other communities.

Dedicating April as the official Pacific Islander Heritage Month would be a logical next step for the government to deliver on its commitment to the Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders within the United States.

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.

By Representatives

  • Michael Tuncap, Founder, Center for Guided Pathways & PIONEER
  • Dr. Lulani Tomaszewski, FSOCC Pacific Islander Caucus
  • Carmen Ramento Tuncap, Pacific Islander Studies Institute
  • Leilani Hoglund, Pacific Islander Staff Rep, WA CTCs

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 & initiative, please contact Professor Michael Tuncap at or 206-214-8969

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Signatures: 48Next Goal: 50
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