OIA Serves Up Island Flavors
|May 28, 2009 (Washington, DC) - In celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Heritage Month, OIA organized an afternoon program featuring Ken Niumatalolo, Head Coach for the Naval Academy football team. Employees from throughout the Federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the embassies of the Pacific Island countries, and private organizations were invited. The event was complete with live island music, traditional dances, and island food.
“Today we celebrate the achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans and their contributions to this country. There are many that we can be proud of,” said Nikolao Pula, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs.
OIA was fortunate to have Mr. Niumatalolo as the guest speaker for the day. Mr. Niumatalolo is the 38th head football coach for the Navy Midshipmen and the first Samoan collegiate head coach on any level. “One important characteristic of leadership is being true to yourself,” said Niumatalolo. “As Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans, we need to be proud of our heritage because it is the one of the greatest contributions we can offer.”
Entertainment for the day was provided by the local Samoan community. All members of a small and close knit island community in Washington, D.C., some are Federal employees and others are from the private sector. Under the leadership of staff from Congressman Faleomavaega’s office, this group dazzled the audience with live Samoan music and cultural performances from several Polynesian islands.
Celebration of APIA Heritage Month began after Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Mineta introduced a resolution in 1977 calling the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate and both bills were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the event as an annual celebration.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush expanded the weeklong celebration by designating the month of May as APIA Heritage Month. 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.