November 27, 2009

History of Native American Heritage Day

Native American History Month:  A Legacy of Achievement and Contribution

By James RamosDr. Arthur Parker, a member of the Seneca Tribe, was an early champion of American Indian Day who convinced the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans."

In 1915, the Congress of the American Indian Association approved an American Indian Day declaration. Its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, officially declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day. More importantly, the declaration included the first major demand for full U.S. citizenship for American Indians, eventually granted when the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

In May 1916, New York Governor Charles Whitman declared the first state American Indian Day in the nation.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 National American Indian Heritage Month. Similar resolutions were signed through the years.

Today, several states celebrate Native American Day on the fourth Friday in September, including California. In fact, in 1998 the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians partnered with the California Assembly to pass AB 1953, making California Native American Day an official state holiday.

In June, President Barack Obama signed the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, sponsored by Congressman Joe Baca, which we celebrate today. Native Americans have come a long way since the humble efforts of Dr. Parker a century ago.
For Immediate Release
November 25, 2009

Statement by the President on Native American Heritage Day“Tomorrow, Americans everywhere will observe our National Day of Thanksgiving. It will be a time of celebration and reflection as we gather with family and friends to count our blessings and remember those less fortunate. But it will also be a time to remember how this holiday began–as a harvest celebration between European settlers and the American Indians who had been living and thriving on the continent for thousands of years.”

“That is why on Friday, I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day. My Administration is committed to strengthening the nation to nation relationship with tribal governments. But it is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition and history of Native Americans and their status today- and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made, and will continue to make to our Nation.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Heritage Day at NMAI and A Month and a Day for Indians.


dprosenthal said...

If Mr O had any real interest in promoting Native American Heritae Day, he would have made sure that his proclamation was very well publicized and would have set an example by having an observance in the White House.
Maybe when he proclaims a Special Recognition of Acorn Day the press will be invited to cover the momentous occasion.

dmarks said...

Yeah... As it was, I hardly heard of the event. Just here, really.