A new effort funded by a federal grant will identify, document and commemorate the contributions of Filipino Americans to Washington’s history.
The grant from the Underrepresented Communities grant program administered by the National Park Service was made to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, according to a news release from the state agency.
Working with Filipino American historians and community members and their partners, the state agency will gain a greater understanding of the settlement and growth of Filipino Americans in Washington.
It’s part of the agency’s long-term strategy to understand, document, commemorate and collaborate with all underrepresented communities within Washington, the release said.
The project will include outreach opportunities and ultimately result in recorded oral histories, Historic Property Inventory forms for significant sites and buildings that tell the story of Filipino Americans, and completion of two National Register of Historic Places nomination forms.
Washington has one of the highest concentrations of Filipino Americans in the United States. In the summer of 1937, Yakima County’s Filipino pioneers, most of whom lived in the Wapato area, came together and formed the Filipino-American Community of the Yakima Valley.
They built the Filipino Community Hall at 211 W. Second St. in Wapato in 1952. It was the first Filipino Hall built in the West, according to the National Filipino-American Historical Society in Seattle.
The hall is the site of a popular dinner every spring. The traditional Filipino dinner celebrates the hall and honors the work of the early pioneers. The menu includes roasted pork, spring rolls, rice noodles, vegetables and rice cakes. Women usually wear traditional colorful embroidered gowns with butterfly sleeves and many men wear embroidered shirts.
Across the street from the Filipino hall is the Yakima Buddhist Church Bussei Kaikan, which is the site of another popular annual dinner held by the Japanese community of Yakima County. It features sukiyaki and other traditional dishes and takes place on the first Sunday of every March. Members of each community often help with the neighboring dinner.
The National Park Service announced in June that it has awarded $750,000 in Underrepresented Community Grants to support the identification and nomination of sites to the National Register of Historic Places, the news release said. The Underrepresented Community grant program focuses on documenting the homes, lives, landscapes and experiences of underrepresented peoples who played a significant role in national history.
For more information about the grants and the Underrepresented Community Grant Program, visit https://www.nps.gov/preservation-grants/community-grants.html.