SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Back on August 28, 1889, the first group of 46 Pacific Islander settlers arrived in Utah to establish the Iosepa settlement in Tooele County’s Skull Valley.

They were converted by Mormon missionaries sent by the LDS church to Polynesia in the 1850s, who wanted to be closer to the temples and headquarters in Salt Lake City. Since then, the Pacific Islander community has thrived and grown to 50,000 members who call Utah home, the state with the highest population in the country.

For the past nine years, the State of Utah has observed the month of August as Pacific Islander Heritage Month to celebrate their culture, diversity, arts, cuisines, business, government, and sports. They contribute and serve the community in numerous roles including elected offices, on-air broadcast personalities, school principals, district judges, professors, physicians, and more.

Jake Fitisemanu Jr., chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition and Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, CEO of Pacific Islander Knowledge 2 Action Resource (PIK2AR) joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. In part one, they explained the history of the Pacific Islander population in Utah, the efforts to recognize Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Utah, why August was chosen for this celebration, what it means to each of them personally, and the mixed feelings about the combined categorization of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

In part two, they talked about the updated population data of Pacific Islanders in Utah, the other Pacific Islander ethnicities that are not as commonly known, the challenges that they uniquely face in their community, and the representation of Pacific Islanders outside of stereotypical sectors such as athletics and entertainment.

In part three, they discussed how Pacific Islander community members contribute to society, what their individual organizations do, how the Pacific Islander community has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the remaining events for Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Here are the remaining events for Utah’s Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For more information, visit Pacific Islander Knowledge 2 Action Resources’ website.

  • August 18 (6 p.m.): Pacific Island Women’s EmpowHERment at Empowered Living Services (2049 W. 5000 S. in Salt Lake City)
  • August 19 (6 p.m.): K.A.V.A. Talks, Co-Ed Town hall with Dr. Luciane Fangalua (Zoom ID: 8629526963)
  • August 20 (3-8 p.m.): Lehi Farmer’s Market Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month Celebration (7431 N. 8000 W. in Lehi)
  • August 20 (7 p.m.): Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula (Online)
  • August 21 (10 a.m.-7 p.m.): Lehi Farmer’s Market Utah Pacific Island Heritage Month Celebration (7431 N. 8000 W. in Lehi)
  • August 21 (10 a.m.-3 p.m.): Claire’s Silly Things at Youth Entrepreneurs (1339 Carousel Street in Salt Lake City)
  • August 23 (6 p.m.): P.E.A.U. Cultural Workshop, Carving with Tan Designs (PEAU Facebook,
  • August 27 (5 p.m.-Dark): Penitani Lemonade Project at Youth Entrepreneurs (4902 W. 6440 S. in West Jordan)
  • August 28 (9 a.m.): Pacific Island Business Alliance Pasifika Youth Pitching Competition (Zoom ID: 8629526963)
  • September 3: Polynesian Days at Electric Park in Thanksgiving Point (3003 N. Thanksgiving Way in Lehi)

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Fitisemanu Jr. and Feltch-Malohifo’ou, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.