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Native American Heritage Month

Starting Nov. 1 residents across the United States will celebrate the rich and diverse culture of the 3.2 million Native Americans residing in the country keeping in mind all of the historical sacrifices they’ve made in the country, during the month of the Native Americans. This month-long holiday is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to pay homage to the important and numerous contributions of Native American people. Heritage Month also serves as an opportune time to educate the general public about the various Native American tribes who roamed and ruled the lands of the country long before the pilgrims came ashore in the U.S.

This month takes the opportunity to raise a general awareness about the various challenges Native people have faced both in the past and in the present, and the unique ways in which they have worked in order to conquer these challenges. What started at the turn of the 20th 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. Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York during the 1900s, was one of the proponents of celebrating a day in honor of American Indians. He convinced the Boy Scouts of America to celebrate a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they set aside such a day. The annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1915, formally approved to consider a plan concerning the celebration of an American Indian Day. The association’s president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge was directed to call upon the country in order to observe such a day. On Sept. 28, 1915, Coolidge issued a proclamation that declared the second Saturday of the month May as an American Indian Day. The governor of New York declared the first American Indian Day in a state on the second Saturday in May 1916. Some states celebrate the fourth Friday of September as the day. It is a day the people in the country observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday. In 1990, former President George H.W. Bush finally declared the entire month of November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Subsequent Presidents have issued annual proclamations since then, calling upon all Americans to recognize contributions and sacrifices of Native Americans, to learn about their rich history and culture, and to commemorate the month with appropriate programs and activities. In 2008 President Bush signed legislation into public law designating the Friday following Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. This year Native American Heritage Day will be celebrated Nov. 25.

by Scott Cloud, NOC’s What’s Happening, November 3, 2017