What began as a campaign for a single day of remembrance around the turn of the century has expanded into a national holiday and an entire month set aside to honor the ancestors of the country’s current population.
Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York, was one of the earliest advocates for a national American Indian Day.
He successfully lobbied the Boy Scouts of America to observe a day dedicated to the “First Americans,” and the organization did so for three consecutive years. The first official American Indian Day was established in 1915 after it was voted on at the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kansas.
It ordered its president, the Arapaho Reverend Sherman Coolidge, to issue a call for a national day of observance. On September 28, 1915, Coolidge issued a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day. The proclamation also included the first formal appeal for the recognition of Indians as citizens.
Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode his horse from state to state the year prior to this proclamation’s issuance, lobbying for the creation of a special day to recognize Native Americans.
At the White House on December 14, 1915, he presented the support of twenty-four state governments. However, no such national holiday has ever been officially recognized in history.
In 1916, on the state’s second Saturday in May, New York’s governor declared the first American Indian Day. The fourth Friday in September is a holiday in a number of states. Such a day was established by law in Illinois in 1919, for instance.
Despite the fact that Columbus Day has been recognized as Native American Day in a number of states in recent years, it is still not a federally recognized holiday.
An official joint resolution was passed in 1990 and signed by President George H. W. Bush declared November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Each November since 1994, similar proclamations have been issued under slightly different names (such as “Native American Heritage Month” or “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”).
History Of Native American Heritage Day
In the years between 1912 and 1915, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca, led the first demonstrations in support of National Native American Heritage Day. At first, he was an advocate for the establishment of an “American Indian Day” within the Boy Scouts of America. Bill introduced by Rep.
Joe Baca in 1990 and signed by President George H. W. Bush established American Indian Heritage Day on the Monday following Thanksgiving. A day of remembrance for the Native American community and their many contributions to the United States was officially designated for November 28 under law.
The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and the nation’s 184 federally recognized tribes showed their support for American Indian Heritage Day by participating in the event.
Native American Heritage Day is an opportunity for all Americans to honor and learn from the indigenous cultures of the country. Native American history, culture, and accomplishments should be highlighted in the classroom in order to raise students’ awareness of these groups.
The Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009 was initially passed by the United States House of Representatives, with a few minor amendments made by unanimous consent in the United States Senate. The legislation, as amended by the Senate, was unanimously approved for the second time in the House of Representatives. When President Obama signed the bill into law on October 30, 2009, it became law nationwide.
Native American Heritage Day and Month provide a tremendous opportunity for indigenous people to share information about their cultures with the general public. Today, more than any other, they drive the conversation about culture, show pride in their heritage by donning moccasins (or “rocking the moccasin”), and provide insight into the wide range of tribal communities.
What’s Open Or Closed?
Although American Indian Heritage Day is nationally recognized as a holiday, it is also celebrated as a state holiday in some states,
such as Maryland. Most state employees and many others in Maryland get the day off on this day, as state agencies, libraries, and public schools are all closed.
Ways To Celebrate Native American Heritage Day
Native American Heritage Day and Month provide a wealth of opportunities to do just that, with cities across the country hosting events ranging from festivals to art shows to museum exhibitions that highlight Native American artists, musicians, and community leaders.
Cooking traditional Native American fare, reading works by Indigenous authors, and patronizing locally owned Native American businesses are all great ways to show respect for the culture without leaving home.
Looking for some exciting party ideas? For Native American Heritage Day and beyond, we’ve compiled a list of fun things to do.
Thanksgiving Should Be Decolonized
On November 24th, Americans all over the country will gather with friends and family to feast and remember the historic tale of the first Thanksgiving when European settlers and Native Americans got along famously.
Many Native Americans and their allies observe November 22 as a “Day of Mourning,” highlighting the ways in which the colonized story glosses over the ways in which European settlers brought tragedy to indigenous communities in the United States through acts of genocide, cultural assimilation, and land theft.
Great ways to decolonize the narrative around Thanksgiving include having conversations about Native American history and successes with dinner guests,
including Native dishes in the holiday fest, and participating in “Day of Mourning” marches like the one the United American Indians of New England hold annually.
The day after Thanksgiving is National Native American Heritage Day, a day set aside to celebrate and honor the contributions of American Indians. This holiday honors Native Americans by commemorating their rich histories and illuminating their many contributions to society.