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Native American Heritage Month

By Leslie Keith

Staff Writer

Holidays and special events are an important ways that the United States, along with every country in the world, celebrate important people or events that have impacted the nation.

November not only starts the official countdown for Thanksgiving, but it is also Native American Heritage Month in the United States. Native Americans have had a huge impact on the history of the United States, dating back all the way to the first settlers. Overtime, however, their traditions and beliefs have been forgotten or ignored. This all changed with the help of a Seneca Native American and the boy scouts.

Dr. Arthur C. Parker was a Seneca Native American who was one of the proponents of American Indian Day in the United States. He was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. He eventually persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for the next three years it was celebrated among them.

In 1915, the Congress of the American Indian Association formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day while meeting in Lawrence, Kansas. The president of the Congress of the American Indian Association, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe Native American, called on the country to observe this day in time. He issued a proclamation on September 28, 1915, which declared the second Monday of each May as American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal to recognize Indians as citizens.

The year before the proclamation was issued, a Blackfoot Native American by the name of Red Fox James, rode from state to state on his horse to gain approval of a day to honor Native Americans and their history of the nation. On December 14, 1915, Red Fox James presented endorsements from twenty-four different states to the White House, but there is no record or document showing that the holiday was ever proclaimed.

The second Saturday in May of 1916 was the first American Indian Day in a state. It was declared by the governor of New York, Charles S. Whitman. Several other states celebrated the holiday as well, but on a different day in a different month which was the fourth Friday in September. Soon afterwards several states decided that Columbus Day was also Native American Day, but it is still today just a holiday where we pay little attention to the actual Native Americans that had taken place in such a historical event.

Finally, in 1990 George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution that designated November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Other names have been associated with the holiday since 1994 such as, “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”

Native American Heritage month is now a way that people can celebrate their ancestors and those who have some Native American blood or are pure blooded have a chance to feel a connection and honor that they are from those who have helped shape this nation into what it is today. All over the country people, tribes, and even random citizens with no known Native American background, will take place in walks, hikes, ceremonies, celebrations, and special honors to remember a time when these lands were filled with tribes: the tribes that helped the first settlers, the tribes who for a long time suffered from discrimination because of their race, and the tribes who in a way helped build many traditions without any of us knowing.

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