Exploring Space and Place in the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection

Guest post by Meagan Harden, 2022-2023 HCPC graduate student fellow

As a geographer, I’m constantly paying attention to space and place. Space refers to a general location – for example, “the ocean” could be a space, as could Campus Center or Hamilton Library. Place, on the other hand, contains the meanings that people attach to particular spaces, transforming a space from a physical area into somewhere imbued with stories, experiences, or memories. “The ocean” becomes the place where people swim or pick ʻopihi; Campus Center becomes the place where students meet for coffee between classes; Hamilton Library becomes the place where I spend hours combing through documents for my dissertation.

What happens when a space contains different meanings for different people? This question guided my research as I entered the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection. As part of my dissertation, this research sought insight into how U.S. government officials have perceived and represented the thousands of islands included in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a post-
World War II political entity in the Western Pacific Ocean that consisted of what are today the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (including Yap, Kosrae, Chuuk, and Pohnpei), Palau, and the Marshall Islands.

From reading books such as David Hanlon’s (1998) Remaking Micronesia: Discourses Over Development in a Pacific Territory, 1944-1982, the Teaching Oceania series from the Center for Pacific Island Studies, and especially watching Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s Lessons from Hawaii spoken word performance, I knew that U.S. governmental representations of the Trust Territory might be radically different from how local people understand the places they call home. For people living on any of these islands, the places themselves are layered with memories – perhaps a particular stretch of coast marks a favorite family picnic spot, or the monthly craft market, or the birthplace of an archipelago where one’s ancestors first fished islands out of the sea. However, because the United States’ main interest in the Trust Territory was driven by military strategy, I expected the federal government’s place-making representations to focus on characteristics such as a harbor’s suitability for war ships or an island’s proximity to enemy forces.

My foray into the Congressional Papers of Senators Daniel Inouye and Hiram Fong confirmed these suspicions, with added layers of complexity. For example, officials from the U.S. Departments of the Interior, State, and Defense tend to represent the islands as remote, minuscule, and utterly dependent on the benevolence of American government; in contrast, while legislators from Hawaiʻi do still represent the Trust Territory as distant and small, they are much more openly critical of the shortcomings of American governance that harmed the islands physically, economically, and culturally. Rather than one homogenous representation of the islands, then, the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection reveals a range of perspectives that, at times, challenge one another.

Furthermore, the perspectives coming from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands differ even more significantly from outsider representations. Whereas U.S. Senator Spiro Agnew (R – Maryland) describes the region as lacking in natural resources, Congress of Micronesia Senator Wilfred Kendall (from the Marshall Islands) argues that “our islands have the capacity to provide for the body and spirit in abundance.” Similarly, a U.S. document pertaining to political status negotiations with the Northern Mariana Islands calls the island of Farallon de Medinilla “a target area,” reducing the island to a military strategy point; however, as experts from the Northern Mariana Islands point out, Farallon de Medinilla has historically provided a safe haven for migratory birds, while abundant coral reefs have made it hospitable for all kinds of marine life (Hofschneider, 2016).

Excerpt from remarks by Congress of Micronesia Senator Wilfred Kendall to the United Nations Trusteeship Council on June 3, 1975. Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.

So, why is it important to look at these representations of space and place? If we read these archival documents alongside current events, we can start to connect military-oriented representations with pressing environmental and cultural issues. If an island is represented as nothing more than a target for weapons, it becomes easier to ignore the flora, fauna, and spiritual importance of the island, as we see happening at Farallon de Medinilla. If an entire region is depicted as lacking natural resources, we overlook the local sustainable food systems that have nourished islanders for thousands of years; this contributes to the impression that islanders require outside assistance to sustain themselves, which in turn facilitates dependence on imported processed foods (Heaton, 2021).

How we represent space matters because it informs how we think about places, which in turn guides our actions toward or within those places. Places like Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where the U.S. conducts military testing (Downey, 2019), or the island of Peleliu in Palau, where unexploded ordnance from World War II threatens local lives (Island Times, 2021), have been homelands for much longer than they’ve been military sites. Perhaps re-presenting them as such can offer hope for a brighter, safer future for all.

About the author

Meagan Harden is a Ph.D. candidate and lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawai̒ʻi at Mānoa. Her research examines American imperialism in island spaces, focusing particularly on the production of spatial imaginaries and the ways in which islanders resist, subvert, and/or accommodate them. With an M.A. in International Studies and a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Oklahoma, Meagan aims to use critical feminist and anarchist frameworks to disrupt conventional geopolitical paradigms that represent islands and islanders as peripheral agents in international relations. When she is not teaching, writing, or exploring the archives, Meagan enjoys outrigger canoe paddling, yoga, and reading fiction.

As part of her fellowship research, Meagan also curated this primary source set and presented this talk about Senator Fongʻs and Senator Inouyeʻs 1965 Pacific State Proposal to annex the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands into the state of Hawaiʻi.

Senator Inouye’s Press Releases (1963-2012) Digitized

It has been 10 years since the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye. One way to understand the Senator’s legacy is through his Senate press releases, which have recently been digitized by the UH Mānoa Library. The press releases, which document nearly 50 years of the Senator’s steadfast advocacy for Hawaiʻi in the U.S. Congress, add to the 64,000+ pages of archival material on legislative accomplishments, Native Hawaiian issues, Japanese Latin American Internment, and Kahoʻolawe that have already been digitized.

In addition to documenting issues of local, national, and international significance, the press releases are also a great resource for tracking federal funding for Hawaiʻi in sectors such as defense, agriculture, natural resource management, education, healthcare, social services, transportation, shipping, infrastructure, arts and culture, and more.

Below is a selection of press releases from the collection:

One of the most compelling aspects of this collection is its chronological scope. The period between 1963 and 2012 saw tremendous transformation in Hawaiʻi, the nation, and the world. Senator Inouye’s press releases accordingly reflect hope, resolve, disquiet, sometimes frustration–but never despair. The Senator’s commitment to bipartisanship and belief in democracy through these many years are reassuring reminders, especially in these last years when so much has seemed uncertain.

Mahalo to the Daniel K. Inouye Institute and to the library’s current DKI project team: Donovan Balderama, Daniel Ishimitsu, Alisa Kwok, Wen Lin, Jill Seapker, and Dawn Sueoka. 

This effort is part of an ongoing initiative, supported by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, to digitize portions of the Senator’s archives. In the next few years, we will add to our digital collections Senator Inouye’s newsletters, all of his speeches, and records from the Senator’s years in the U.S. House (1959-1963), which document Hawaiʻi’s transition to statehood.

How to access the press releases

The best way to access the press releases and other digitized material from the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers is through the collectionʻs online finding aid. Archival finding aids provide contextual information about a collection and its major “series” (large categories of documents), as well as a hierarchical listing of the collectionʻs contents. The Inouye collection is organized according to the functions of the Senator’s Washington, D.C., and Honolulu offices.

Navigate the collection by exploring the nested list on the right side of the interface. Digitized files will appear as icons in red. Chronological press releases can be found within the Administrative files series; Washington, D.C. office subseries; Public Relations sub-subseries.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers finding aid in ArchivesSpace, showing link to digitized folder.

You can download all press releases at once using the link at the top of this page.

A note on the preparation of the files

In the preparation of these documents, emphasis was placed on enabling researchers to reliably search the content of the press releases themselves. 

Material was digitized at 400 PPI in 24-bit color.

In preparation for OCR correction, PDFs created before September 2022 include image preprocessing such as text straightening and page rotation by ABBYY FineReader. PDFs created after September 2022 have these features turned off.

Document zoning was manually corrected using ABBYY FineReader.

All text was recognized using ABBYY FineReader.

OCR was manually corrected using the ABBYY FineReader Verification function, except in the following cases: 

  • Non-press release material included as attachments, e.g., Congressional Record remarks, newspaper clippings, correspondence, forms was not corrected
  • Text in document headers, footers (e.g., fax transmittal information) was not corrected
  • 1963-1964 folders where pages were too faded or carbon copy text was too blurry to produce editable OCR were not corrected

Announcing the K. Mark Takai Papers

Representative K. Mark Takai, smiling, in suit, with American flag in background.

The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is excited to announce the opening of the K. Mark Takai Papers. This collection, generously donated by Takaiʻs wife Sami, documents the late congressman’s work in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, his time in Congress, as well as his tenure as president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi and editor of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student newspaper Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi

K. Mark Takai, a Pearl City High School and UH Mānoa graduate, represented ʻAiea and Pearl City in the Hawai’i State Legislature for 20 years, were he was known as a dedicated, energetic, and well-liked public servant and a champion of education and of veterans issues. While in the legislature, he established the Hawaiʻi Medal of Honor to honor servicemembers with Hawaiʻi ties that had been killed in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Takai himself was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and was activated in 2005, and again in 2009, when he deployed to Kuwait for 6 months.

Takai was elected to Congress in 2014 (representing Hawaiʻi’s First Congressional District), and was named to the House Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources. Though he passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2016, his legislation to compensate military personnel exposed to radioactive debris in the Marshall Islands continued to be championed by his colleagues, as the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act. The measure became part of the 117th Congressʻs PACT Act, which expanded benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. It was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022.

Governor David Ige, who served with Takai in the state legislature, offered this remembrance: “In the often tumultuous world of politics, [Mark Takai] has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”

Below are some highlights from the collection:

  • Flier with photo of Mark Takai and headline reading "Vote for K. Mark Takai ASUH President. He has earned our trust."
  • ID badge with photo of Takai.
  • Photo of Duckworth and Takai. Inscription reads, "To Mark, Who knew at UH we'd make it this far? Aloha! Tammy"
  • President Obama and Representative Takai, both wearing cigar lei, shaking hands.

You can explore the collection and learn more about Rep. Takai via the collection’s online finding aid.

The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is very grateful to Rep. Takai’s wife, Sami Takai, for this gift!

Dignity, Equality, and Opportunity for All: Patsy Mink and Title IX

On Friday, April 29, 2022, the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, in partnership with the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, hosted a talk by Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink about their biography Fierce and Fearless: Patsy Takemoto Mink, First Woman of Color in Congress. Fierce and Fearless is the first biography of Mink, who represented Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1965 to 1977, and from 1990 to 2002. 

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink during their talk on Fierce and Fearless: Patsy Takemoto Mink, First Woman of Color in Congress.

The talk covered topics like the different feminist frames through which we can understand Minkʻs work, Wendy and Judyʻs approach to co-writing the book, and the long legislative journey that characterized Title IXʻs passage and implementation. Participants in the Q & A shared laughter and stories about Mink as a “force of nature.” 

The talk marked the launch of the virtual exhibit Dignity, Equality, and Opportunity for All: Patsy Mink and Title IX. The exhibit, which will be viewable online through December 31, 2022, features materials from the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection (the Patsy Mink Memorabilia Collection, the Senator Hiram L. Fong Papers, the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, the Senator Spark M. Matsunaga Papers, and the Neil Abercrombie Papers), the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi Papers, the University Archives, and the Hawaiian Collection, as well as footage from the 2008 documentary Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority.

A particularly rewarding aspect of the exhibit research was learning more about Minkʻs time as a student at the University of Hawaiʻi. For instance, in 1948, she and the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi organized a model constitutional convention to introduce students to the process of drafting a state constitution. Our University Archives holds their draft constitution, which a 1948 Honolulu Advertiser editorial said may contain “sound new ideas for inclusion in the state constitution’s final draft.”

Class council, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Class of 1948. Patsy Takemoto is on the far left. Future governor George Ariyoshi is in the back row, far right.

Mahalo to Wendy and Judy; to the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Department of American Studies, and Department of Ethnic Studies for hosting; to campus partners the William S. Richardson School of Law, UH Mānoa Women’s Center, Bridge to Hope, Student Parents at Mānoa, Student Equity Excellence Diversity (SEED), and the UH Mānoa Office of Title IX; and to Kimberlee Bassford of Making Waves Films for helping us to celebrate Patsy Mink this year!

Commissioning of the USS Daniel Inouye

On December 8, the USS Daniel Inouye (DDG 118) was commissioned at Pearl Harbor. The destroyer, whose motto is “Go For Broke,” honors Senator Inouye’s life and public service.

Left: Daniel Inouye enlisting in the army as a University of Hawaiʻi freshman, ca. January-February 1943. Photo: Ka Leo. Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library. Right: The USS Daniel Inouye.

Inouye, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, represented Hawaiʻi in the U.S. House from 1959 to 1963, and in the U.S. Senate from 1963 until his death in 2012. The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is honored to be the home of Senator Inouye’s papers. The Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, consisting of over 1,000 boxes, reflect much of Hawaiʻiʻs development from statehood through the early 2000s. Subjects that are well represented in the collection include land, agriculture, the military, maritime issues, natural resources issues, healthcare, programs and legislation relating to Native Hawaiians, and the effort to obtain redress for Japanese and Japanese Latin Americans interned during World War II.

The late Senator Bob Dole with Senator Inouye, May 9, 1986. As WWII soldiers wounded in Italy a week apart, Dole and Inouye recovered together at what is now known as the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. U.S. Senate Photograph. Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.

Learn more about the Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers by exploring the finding aid, which also includes links to material that has been digitized. If you have questions, or would like assistance accessing or navigating the collection, please reach out to Congressional Papers Archivist Dawn Sueoka (sueokad@hawaii.edu).

We look forward to continuing to broaden access to this incredibly significant collection!

Introducing the Hawaiʻi Congressional Media Collection

Last week, we packed up 53 boxes of film and video and transported them from UH Mānoa Library’s Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection to ‘Uluʻulu: The Henry Kuʻualoa Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawaiʻi at UH West Oʻahu. The boxes contained moving image material from the archival collections of Senator Spark Matsunaga, Representative Pat Saiki, Senator Hiram Fong, Representative Tom Gill, and Representative Neil Abercrombie–nearly 900 individual items in all. (AV material from Senator Akaka’s collection, which has not yet been processed by archives staff, is currently being prepared for transfer to ʻUluʻulu; AV material from Senator Daniel Inouye’s collection is already being cared for by ʻUluʻulu.)

The move is part of a partnership between the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection and ʻUluʻulu to establish the Hawai’i Congressional Media Collection at ‘Ulu’ulu. Building on the strength of HCPC’s collections and on ‘Uluʻulu’s expertise and well-established infrastructure, the partnership will ensure that this important audiovisual documentation of Hawaiʻi’s political history will be preserved, digitized, and shared.

ʻUluʻulu head archivist Janel Quirante and digital media specialist Robbie Omura unload boxes of videotapes.

ʻUluʻulu Head Archivist Janel Quirante said, “All of us at ‘Ulu‘ulu are thrilled that we can work in partnership with the University Archives & Manuscripts Department to help preserve, digitize and make accessible the Hawaiʻi Congressional Media collection. It was so exciting to peek inside the boxes when they arrived at ‘Ulu‘ulu and see the media history of our state’s delegates to the U.S. Congress. I look forward to working with the collection, and helping students and researchers view the footage, some of which is over 50 years old!” 

Indeed, the materials date from the early 1960s through the early 2000s, and encompass a range of formats from 16mm film to miniDV tapes. They document significant issues facing Hawaiʻi over the last half-century, as well as issues and events of national and international importance. Highlights include footage of Senator Fong and President Nixon at the White House in 1970; television campaign spots for Representative Tom Gill; Senator Fong’s and then-Representative Matsunaga’s 1960s and 70s messages from the Senate and House Recording Studios; debates on redress for Japanese Americans interned during WWII; Representative Pat Saikiʻs Washington Reports; footage of President George H. W. Bushʻs 1990 visit to Hawaiʻi; Representative Neil Abercrombie’s campaign ads; and televised programming and debates on topics like sovereignty, land, the economy, the Jones Act, sugar, natural resource management, the Iraq war, and public education. 

“This collection is an amazing complement to the other political media collections housed at ‘Ulu‘ulu including the Hawaiʻi Political History Documentation Project from the Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR); the DIALOG public affairs television series from PBS Hawai‘i; the Daniel K. Inouye Oral History Project from the Daniel K. Inouye Institute; and the First Friday : The Unauthorized News television series from the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies,” Quirante said.  

Assistant Archivist for Research and Outreach Archivist Tisha Aragaki, Congressional Papers Archivist Dawn Sueoka, Digital Media Specialist Robbie Omura, Auxiliary and Facilities Services Officer Mark Pascua, Cataloger and Assistant Archivist Koa Luke, and Head Archivist Janel Quirante with the Hawaiʻi Congressional Media Collection.

“Our next steps will be to prepare the materials for storage in our vault, accession the items into our catalog, and start planning and budgeting for their digitization,” she said. 

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this exciting initiative! Mahalo to ʻUluʻulu, and to the families of Senator Spark Matsunaga, Senator Hiram Fong, Representative Tom Gill, and Senator Daniel Akaka; and to Representative Pat Saiki and Representative Neil Abercrombie for their support for this partnership!

A Woman in the House

The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection celebrates the publication this month of former Congresswoman Pat Saiki’s memoir A Woman in the House. Saiki, who was born and raised in Hilo, was first elected to Congress in 1986, becoming the first Republican since statehood to represent Hawaiʻi in the U.S. House.

1986 Saiki for Congress bumper sticker. Patricia F. Saiki Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.
1986 Saiki for Congress bumper sticker. Patricia F. Saiki Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.

By the time she went to Congress, Saiki had worked as a teacher, been a delegate to the 1968 state constitutional convention, and served for 14 years in the state legislature, where she authored the Equal Rights Amendment to Hawaiʻiʻs state constitution, as well as a package of equal rights bills that would, for example, enable women to take out credit cards and mortgages in their own names, and make a wife’s adoption of her husband’s name upon marriage optional instead of mandatory.

Saiki helped to reorganize and rebuild the Hawaiʻi Republican Party following sweeping losses in the 1982 election. As chair of the party, she oversaw a three-fold increase in party membership and a major fundraising effort. During the next election, Honolulu voted for a Republican mayor (Frank Fasi, who had changed parties), and Hawaiʻi voted to re-elect president Ronald Reagan. 

“Republican decision-makers [in Washington] must become more clearly aware of Hawaii’s interests and its posture in the Pacific,” she told political scientist and Honolulu Advertiser columnist Daniel Tuttle in March 1986. Indeed, as a Republican, Saiki was able to gain critical Congressional and Presidential support for initiatives backed by Democratic members of the Hawaiʻi delegation, such as obtaining redress for Japanese Americans interned during WWII and stopping the bombing of Kahoʻolawe.

After serving 2 terms in the House, Saiki ran for U.S. Senate in 1990, but was defeated by Daniel Akaka. President George H. W. Bush appointed her administrator of the Small Business Administration in April 1991. Saiki again chaired the Hawaiʻi GOP in 2014.

Pat Saiki being sworn in as administrator of the Small Business Administration by Justice Sandra Day OʻConnor. Saikiʻs son Stanley Jr. holds the bible, and President George H. W. Bush looks on. April 10, 1991. Photo: Marty La Vor.  Patricia F. Saiki Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.
Pat Saiki being sworn in as administrator of the Small Business Administration by Justice Sandra Day OʻConnor. Saikiʻs son Stanley Jr. holds the bible, and President George H. W. Bush looks on. April 10, 1991. Photo: Marty La Vor. Patricia F. Saiki Papers, Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library.

The Patricia F. Saiki Papers, measuring approximately 18.5 linear feet, consist of a few items from Saikiʻs service in the state legislature, but most are from her terms in the U.S. Congress and the Small Business Administration. Saiki donated a large collection of newspaper clippings about her activities and interests dating from 1968 through 1990, including many documenting her successful and unsuccessful campaigns for public office. There are also a few memorabilia items, and a small collection of photographs taken throughout her career.

More information about Congresswoman Saiki, including a link to the collection’s finding aid, can be found on the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collectionʻs website. A number of photographs from the collection have been digitized and are available in the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collectionʻs digital image collection.

Order A Woman in the House from patsaiki.com. Congresswoman Saiki was recently interviewed on Hawaiʻi Public Radioʻs the Conversation. Find her interview here.


History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives. “SAIKI, Patricia.” https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/S/SAIKI,-Patricia-(S000014)/

Tuttle, Dan. “GOPʻs Saiki: Surprise in ʻ86?” The Honolulu Advertiser. March 3, 1986.

Images from the Hawai‘i Congressional Papers Collection

Many of the inquiries received by the Hawai‘i Congressional Papers Collection over the years are requests for images–images of Hawai‘i’s members of Congress by themselves, images of them together as a delegation, images of them with VIPs, campaign images, and images of historical events. To better connect researchers with HCPC images, we are happy to share a small collection of images from the Hawai‘i Congressional Papers Collection.

Senator Hiram Fong in the snow in front of the Capitol, March 21, 1967. Senator Hiram L. Fong Papers, Hawai‘i Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Library

Continue reading

In Appreciation of Campaign Volunteers

“This will not be a tea party. It will be a tough, hard fight and none of us can afford to let down for a minute.”

–1962 election speakers’ kit, Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers

We’re used to seeing candidates on debates, on the news, in commercials, on social media. What’s a lot less visible is the labor of the thousands of volunteers working tirelessly behind the scenes stuffing envelopes, arranging speaking engagements and coffee hours, phone banking, canvassing, coordinating fundraisers, and registering voters. From silk screening T-shirts to repairing torn banners, every contribution matters. “No matter how you spend your day, you can do something to help Sparky!” reported the August 26, 1964, edition of Sparky Re-election Campaign News (Senator Spark M. Matsunaga Papers).

Continue reading

An Invitation to Celebrate: the 1979 Establishment of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week

Flyers for Asian Pacific American Heritage Week events, May 1979. Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers. Reports of racism and xenophobia, along with the disproportionate way that COVID-19 has been impacting our communities, are bringing an increased sense of urgency to May 2020’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. They echo some of the reasons for establishing the original designation over 40 years ago. The now month-long event was first celebrated for just a week: the week of May 4, 1979.

Efforts to establish the first Asian Pacific American Heritage Week were coordinated by the Asian Pacific Congressional Staff Caucus and National Coalition for an Asian Pacific American Proclamation, led by Ruby G. Moy, Chief of Staff for Representative Frank Horton (R-NY), and Jeanie Jew, a Capitol Hill staff member whose grandfather, M. Y. Lee, had immigrated to the U.S. from China to help build the transcontinental railroad and was later killed in Oregon during a period of anti-Asian unrest. According to Representative Horton, this inspired Jew’s belief that “not only should Asians understand their own heritage…all Americans must know about the contributions and histories of the Asian-Pacific American experience in the United States” (Rep. Horton (NY). “Asian/Pacific-American Heritage Month,” Congressional Record 138 (4 Oct. 1992) p. 31364–access for UHM users via HeinOnline).

Continue reading