National Native American Heritage Month is also commonly referred to as “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”. This monthlong event celebrates the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and acknowledges the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportunity to educate the general public about tribes. Heritage Month also raises the general awareness about the unique challenges that Native people have faced, both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges. (National Congress of American Indians. National Congress of American Indians, 2020)
National Native American Heritage Month celebrates people of Native American heritage who have contributed to American society at large. SIETAR USA appreciates and applauds the SIETAR USA members who have American Indian and Alaska Native family backgrounds. They have enriched our association with their unique perspectives, ideas, and contributions derived from their cultural histories.
One of the first proponents of an “American Indian Day” was Dr. Arthur C. Parker. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to celebrate one day for the “First Americans”, which was observed for three years. (The Library of Congress, 2018) Dr. Parker was a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. In 1911, he, along with the Native American physician Charles A. Eastman and others, founded the Society of American Indians to help educate the public about Native Americans. From 1915 to 1920, he was the editor of the society's American Indian Magazine. During the 1930s and the Great Depression, he directed the WPA-funded Indian Arts Project, which was sponsored by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. In 1935, Parker was elected the first President of the Society for American Archaeology. In 1944, Parker helped found the National Congress of American Indians. (Wikipedia, 2020)
In 1914, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor American Indians. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting took place in Lawrence, Kansas. During the meeting, a plan for “American Indian Day” was formally approved. The president of Congress of the American Indian Association, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, called upon the U.S. to observe “American Indian Day”. Rev. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915 that declared the second Saturday of each May as an “American Indian Day”. The proclamation also contained the first formal appeal for recognition of American Indians as U.S. citizens. On December 14, 1915, Red Fox James presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. In May 1916, the governor of New York declared the second Saturday of May as the first “American Indian Day”. Several states celebrate “American Indian Day” on the fourth Friday in September. Currently, several states have designated Columbus Day as “Native American Day”. (The Library of Congress, 2018)
President Reagan proclaimed the week of November 23-30, 1986 as "American Indian Week." In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “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. (National Congress of American Indians. National Congress of American Indians, 2020)
- “Arthur C. Parker.” Wikipedia, September 27, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Parker.
- “Native American Heritage Month.” National Congress of American Indians. National Congress of American Indians, 2020. https://www.ncai.org/initiatives/native-american-heritage-month.
- Public Broadcasting Service. “Native American Heritage Month.” Native American Heritage Month. Public Broadcasting Service, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/specials/native-american-heritage-month/.
- The Library of Congress. “National Native American Heritage Month.” nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov. The Library of Congress, 2018. https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/.
Written by: Emily Kawasaki