By James Ramos
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.
November 25, 2009
Statement by the President on Native American Heritage Day
“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.”