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In Mandarin Chinese it is wu yuè. In Japanese it is gogatsu. In Vietnamese it is tháng nam, and in Thai it is Pruessaphakom. In English, it is the month of May, but no matter how you say it, the fifth month of the Roman Calendar is Asian Heritage Month in North America.
Like Black History Month, which takes place in February, Asian Heritage Month traces its origins to the United States of America. In June 1977, a bill was introduced to the United States House of Congress calling on then President Jimmy Carter to set aside 1 to 10 May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week to celebrate the achievements of Americans of Asian or Pacific Island descent. In July 1977, the United States Senate saw a similar bill introduced. Both bills passed, and on 5 October 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the bills to make Asian Pacific Heritage Week a reality.
In May 1990, President George Bush expanded Asian Pacific Heritage Week into Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen as an appropriate month because the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States took pace on 7 May 1843, and because the transcontinental railroad in the United States was completed in 10 May 1869, built primarily by Chinese immigrant workers. This legislation was signed into law on 23 October 1992.
Asian Heritage Month came to Canada first as a celebration in Toronto, Ontario in 1993. Edmonton adopted the celebration in 1998, and the Edmonton Municipal and Alberta Provincial governments were the first in Canada to officially recognize the event. In December 2001, Canadian Senator the Honourable Vivienne Poy introduced a motion in the Canadian Senate to recognize Asian Heritage Month as a national observance. The motion passed and was signed as law in 2002.
Alberta has a long and proud history of Asian cultural heritage, and the Heritage Community Foundation invites you to join the celebration of Asian Heritage Month by exploring some of these websites on the Alberta Online Encyclopedia:
Alberta: Home, Home on the Plains
Trace the history of Chinese and Japanese settlement in Alberta.
Albertans: Who Do They Think They Are
Discover the stories of immigrants from west, east, south, and southeast Asia.