The National Park Service (NPS) system and programs belong to all Americans, and we are working hard to ensure that they reflect the rich diversity of our nation. Through our AAPI Heritage Initiative, we are recognizing the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and their contributions to our country’s diverse history. The goals of the initiative are to identify physical places that are historically significant and capture intangible history.
As our nation’s storyteller, the NPS identifies and interprets sites that are associated with important events and people in American history. Many national park units are closely associated with AAPI history. For example, the National Park of American Samoa offers a unique homestay program that allows visitors to learn more about local culture. The Honouliuli Internment Camp was recently named a national monument, and joins the Minidoka National Historic Site and the Manzanar National Historic Site in telling the stories of Japanese Americans and others who were interned during World War II.
We also recognize historically significant sites by designating them as National Historic Landmarks or as places listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many AAPI-related sites have been recognized through these two programs, such as the Sumay Cemetery in Guam – the oldest permanent historic cemetery in Guam and all that remains of the historic village of Sumay – and California’s Angel Island, which was the West Coast’s “Ellis Island” for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
Recognizing these AAPI-related sites are important steps towards telling a truer story of our nation’s diverse history, but there is still much more work to be done on this front. That is why we have launched a historic sites campaign to encourage communities across the country to help us identify additional places for possible nomination or designation. Any member of the public can send their ideas directly to us through our public comment page. Communities interested in nominating a site should also work with their State Historic Preservation Offices to apply for our Underrepresented Communities Grants program, which is accepting applications until June 15, 2015.
There are also important stories and pieces of AAPI history tied to places that no longer exist, which is why we also focus on preserving intangible history.
Our national parks have long been interwoven with AAPI communities in this country, but these connections have not always been appropriately acknowledged or reflected. We hope that you will work with us to help ensure that these important pieces of history are recognized, preserved, and shared as part of our commitment to telling all American stories.
Jonathan Jarvis is Director of the National Park Service.