The Origins of Asian Heritage Month
UCTE would like to take the time to explain the events that led to the creation of Asian Heritage Month. Celebrated in Canada since the 1990s, May is the month chosen for highlighting and recognizing contributions made by Asian Canadians and those they continue to make in Canada.
It is important to note that the month of May was chosen for a very significant reason. It commemorates the migration of the first immigrants from Japan to the United States on May 7, 1843, and celebrates the completion of the transcontinental railway on May 10, 1869, accomplished with over 20,000 Asian immigrants.
This U.S. initiative is credited to former Congresswoman Jeanie Jew, who in 1976 approached Frank Horton about officially selecting a month to celebrate Asian and Pacific Americans. Following a year of thought and preparation, Frank Horton and Representative Norman Y. Mineta introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week.
A month later, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by former U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. A year and a few months later, on October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration. In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed into law a bill passed by Congress to extend Asian American Heritage Week to one month. On May 14, 1991, public legislation was unanimously passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, proclaiming May 1991 and May 1992 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In 1992, May was officially designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Asian Canadians and Pacific Islanders have made significant contributions to many facets of our culture and society. In December 2001, the Canadian Senate passed a motion proposed by Senator Vivienne Poy to officially designate May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to declare May as Asian Heritage Month. In short, Asian Heritage Month celebrates the journey of all Asian immigrants and citizens in North America and their unique life experiences, traditions and cultures.