Sunday, October 15, 2006

About Pacific Islanders

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (we'll simply use the term "Pacific Islanders") trace all or some of their ancestry to the first people of the Pacific Islands (Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia). The Pacific Islands are spread across the world's largest ocean, and number well into the tens of thousands. While the federal government previously grouped Pacific Islanders with Asians for statistical purposes, since 1997 federal racial classification guidelines recognize Pacific Islanders as a distinct racial group. (Click on this link for a descripton of all of the islanders that fall within the category (Table 4, page 9).)

Pacific Islander Americans have a smaller population than many U.S. minorities, but they live in every state of the union, and have a long history in this country. In fact, America's Pacific Islander population is the second largest in the world. This has a lot to do with the fact that most Pacific Islanders who live in the U.S. are indigenous to land that is now American soil. In fact, other than American Indians and Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders are the only major racial group that includes populations that are indigenous to the United States.

Hawaii, the 50th state, is one of many Pacific Island archipelagos. The U.S. Pacific Island territories include Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Micronesia was under U.S. authority as it moved towards independence following World War II.

Pacific Islander Americans contribute to their country, and to their own communities. And like other U.S. minorities, they face challenges and difficulties as well. One area of serious concern is higher education, where Pacific Islanders are significantly underrepresented in higher education.

To learn more about Pacific Islander underrepresentation, click here.

To return to the P.I.A. project 101 page, click here.

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