Many countries make up Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

For 2015 the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) has chosen the theme "Many Cultures, One Voice: Promote Equality and Inclusion."

According to the Council, the theme emphasizes the diversity of the AAPI members of the FAPAC, who come from over 30 ethnically distinct groups originating from the Asian and Pacific regions.
A rather broad term, Asia's regions consist of Northern Asia (Russia, Siberia), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), Western Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen), Southern Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet), Eastern Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan) and finally South East Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The Pacific Islands comprised of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federal States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Representative Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a vast and diverse community, some native to the United States, hailing from Hawaii and our Pacific Island territories," said President Barack Obama. "Others trace their heritage to dozens of countries. All are treasured citizens who enrich our Nation in countless ways, and help fulfill the promise of the American dream which has drawn so many to our shores."