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About Native American Heritage Month
Information courtesy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.
One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans" and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.
The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.
The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.
In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including "Native American Heritage Month" and "National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month") have been issued each year since 1994.
From the Smithsonian Institution: In honor of this year's National American Indian Heritage Month, Smithsonian.com explores the tragic history of the Cherokees' struggles with Andrew Jackson, takes a look at modern Native artists and investigates how to cook Native foods.
My earliest childhood memories bring me to a time,
a time of drama called "Unto these Hills."
My mother was from the hills of North Carolina,
and the outdoor drama was amongst her favorite sites to see.
In my youth, the many visits unto the hills made an impression on me.
Not that I intended on a rhyme,
but my thoughts traveled back in time.
Where for the here and now,
I wish to convey a message of a people who may read these lines,
a message of the Cherokee.
From the Aleutian Islands to the Florida Everglades, American Indians and Alaska Natives have contributed immensely to our country's heritage. During National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate their enduring achievements and reaffirm the vital role American Indians and Alaska Natives play in enriching the character of our Nation.
Native Americans stand among America's most distinguished authors, artists, scientists, and political leaders, and in their accomplishments, they have profoundly strengthened the legacy we will leave our children. So, too, have American Indians and Alaska Natives bravely fought to protect this legacy as members of our Armed Forces. As service members, they have shown exceptional valor and heroism on battlefields from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan. Native Americans have demonstrated time and again their commitment to advancing our common goals, and we honor their resolve in the face of years of marginalization and broken promises. My Administration recognizes the painful chapters in our shared history, and we are fully committed to moving forward with American Indians and Alaska Natives to build a better future together.
To strengthen our economy and win the future for our children, my Administration is addressing problems that have burdened Native American communities for too long. We are working to bolster economic development, expand access to affordable health care, broaden post-secondary educational opportunities, and ensure public safety and tribal justice. In June, I signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council, to strengthen Federal engagement with tribal governments and promote economic prosperity in Indian Country and across rural America. This comes in conjunction with several settlements that will put more land into the hands of tribes and deliver long-awaited trust reform to Indian Country.
To bring jobs and sustainable growth to tribal nations, my Administration is connecting tribal economies to the broader economy through transportation infrastructure and high-speed Internet, as well as by focusing on clean energy development on tribal lands. First Lady Michelle Obama's recently launched Let's Move! in Indian Country initiative will also redouble efforts to encourage healthy living for American Indians and Alaska Natives. These actions reflect my Administration's ongoing commitment to progress for Native Americans, which was reaffirmed last year when we announced our support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Through a comprehensive strategy where the Federal Government and tribal nations move forward as equal partners, we can bring real and lasting change to Indian Country.
This month, we celebrate the rich heritage and myriad contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, and we rededicate ourselves to supporting tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and prosperity for all Native Americans. We will seek to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship by ensuring tribal nations have a voice in shaping national policies impacting tribal communities. We will continue this dialogue at the White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C. next month. As we confront the challenges currently facing our tribal communities and work to ensure American Indians and Alaska Natives have meaningful opportunities to pursue their dreams, we are forging a brighter future for the First Americans and all Americans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2011 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 25, 2011, as Native American Heritage Day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.