The PI in the term AAPI stands for Pacific Islanders, and because this group is so small compared to the rest of the rest of the U.S. population (they represent about 0.4% of it), there's not much representation nor thorough understanding of who this group is comprised of.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders refer to the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands, and includes people who identify as Fijian, Marshallese, Samoan and Tongan.
Below, find a non-exhaustive list of Pacific Island countries. We encourage you to let this be your starting point to exploring these beautiful and diverse nations. Plus, to best understand Pacific Islander culture and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we encourage you read up on books by Pacific Islanders and Asian authors.
What regions and countries make up the Pacific Islands?
The Pacific Islands is made up of three subregions: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia:
Melanesia means “black islands” in Greek and consists of roughly 2,000 islands in South Pacific Ocean that extends from New Guinea, stretches to New Caledonia and includes the Arafura Sea.
Micronesia includes the area between Hawaii and the Philippines, and also consists of about 2,000 islands.
Polynesia encompasses about 1,000 islands that stretch from Hawaii, to Easter Island to New Zealand.
All are part of the larger geographic region Oceania, which is comprised of thousands of islands across Central and South Pacific Ocean that also includes Australia. Since the Pacific Islands are comprised of thousands of islands and territories, the number of countries in this group is often up for debate. However, according to a World Health Organization report, there are 15 countries in the Pacific Islands:
Northern Mariana Islands
Wallis and Futuna
Is the Philippines or Japan a Pacific Island country?
Because the Pacific Ocean contains many islands, there tends to be some debate as to whether or not certain countries and people belong to the Pacific Islands. Ultimately, it is up to a person how they choose to identify, but according to Britannica, the Pacific Islands excludes nearby islands like Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan. By geographic definition, Australia is part of Oceania, while Indonesia and the Philippines are part of Southeast Asia and Japan is considered an East Asian nation.
More on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
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