Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Blog Post
Blossoming cherry trees in Washington DC
Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with selected articles about AAPI communities and connecting with the natural world.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

It is a time to remember and celebrate the contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders to American society.

AAPI Heritage Month started initially as a week in May and is the brainchild of former staffer on Capitol Hill, Jeanie Jew. The original week was chosen to commemorate two significant dates:

  • May, May 7th, 1843 marks the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States.
  • May 10th, 1869 marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad, to which Chinese workers contributed significantly.

To celebrate this month at Urban Forestry we have selected a few articles that explore the connection between AAPI communities, the natural world, and history in the US.

Celebrating this AAPI Heritage Month Through Cherry Trees

This article by Casey Trees explores the history of cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. These trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 with the hopes of strengthening relations between the two countries. This article tells the history of cherry trees in the nation's capital through various administrations. Learn more about cherry tree heritage (Published May 2023).

Asian American Pacific Islander in the Environmental Movement

When the author aparna rajagopal was asked to write about what it means to be AAPI in the environmental movement, she felt she couldn’t really answer the question, at least not alone.

This essay explores the intersections of identity and environmentalism through short interviews with AAPI community members.  It follows the varied paths that led them to pursue careers and lives deeply connected to nature.

Rajagopal ends this essay with a conversation about the complicated history of the term environmentalist and the limitations of the label Asian American Pacific Islander for describing such a diverse collection of communities. 

“The term Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) flattens a group of people who hail from a whole hemisphere of our planet—a hemisphere with myriad histories, languages, foods, cultures, religions, and more—into a single four-letter acronym. It’s a monochrome wash over communities who each have unique connections to land, water, wildlife, and being American” by aparna rajagopal.

Her writing is a helpful reminder of the work that remains to make the environmental movement truly a more just and inclusive space for all. Read the full article (Published February 2023).

Hiroshima Peace Trees in Oregon published by the Oregon Department of Forestry

The final story on this list brings us back home to Oregon. The Oregon Department of Forestry created this story map to detail the story of how Oregon got its Hiroshima Peace Trees. Oregon has the largest population of Hiroshima peace trees of any state or nation outside of Japan thanks to Hideko Tamura-Snider. View story map (Published January 2021).