Category:
Civil Rights Law and Policy
Difficulty Level:
Moderate

Native American Heritage Month and the struggle of Native Americans for civil rights in their homeland

On December 14, 1915, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, presented at the White House, endorsements from 24 state govern­ments for a day to honor Indians.  But the Federal government didn’t take action until 1983, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 13th as American Indian Day. What president signed a joint congressional resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month?  

November as National American Indian Heritage Month. It is now called National Native American Heritage Month.

Historical Notes

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 an entire month being designated for that purpose.

One of the early proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York.  He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans", and for three years the organization adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association, meeting in Lawrence, KS, 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 September 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 celebrated 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.

PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION 2015

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

October 30, 2015

Presidential Proclamation -- National Native American Heritage Month, 2015

NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH, 2015

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

American Indians and Alaska Natives enrich every aspect of our country. As the first to live on this land, Native Americans and their traditions and values inspired -- and continue to inspire -- the ideals of self-governance and determination that are the framework of our Nation. This month, we recognize the contributions made by Native Americans since long before our founding, and we resolve to continue the work of strengthening government-to-government ties with tribal nations and expanding possibility for all.

Native Americans have helped make America what it is today. As we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge the unfortunate chapters of violence, discrimination, and deprivation that went on for far too long, as well as the effects of injustices that continue to be felt. While we cannot undo the pain and tragedy of the past, we can set out together to forge a brighter future of progress and hope across Indian Country and the entire American landscape.

Since I took office, I have worked with tribal leaders to write a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship. Ensuring young people have every opportunity to succeed is a critical aspect of our work together, and this year my Administration hosted the inaugural White House Tribal Youth Gathering following the launch of Generation Indigenous -- an initiative aimed at improving the lives of Native youth and empowering the next generation of Native leaders. We will also host the seventh White House Tribal Nations Conference later this year, bringing together leaders of 567 tribes to explore opportunities for progress, with a particular focus on young people. As part of our agenda for providing Native youth the chance to realize their fullest potential, I have engaged tribal communities in a range of critical areas, and we have worked together to boost high school graduation rates and afford young people more chances to pursue higher education, employment, and professional development opportunities. We're also working to expand access to health and counseling services essential to ensuring youth feel safe and heard.

My Administration has continued to partner with tribes to address vital gaps in resources for Indian Country, including equipping communities with broadband, rebuilding infrastructure, spurring economic growth, and increasing renewable energy. To confront the peril of a changing climate, we are also working with tribal leaders across America to develop effective approaches to protecting our communities from this grave threat. And because we know that fostering pride in the languages, traditions, and practices that make up the extraordinary richness of Native American culture is central to our shared progress, my Administration remains committed to ensuring every community feels connected to the extraordinary legacies they are a part of.

This month, let us reaffirm our responsibility to ensure each generation is defined by a greater sense of opportunity than the last, and let us pledge to maintain our strong relationship with tribal nations across America. By keeping this commitment, and by endeavoring to shape a future in which every citizen has the chance to build a life worthy of their hopes and dreams, we can ensure that ours is a country that is true to our spirit and to our enduring promise as a land where all things are possible for all people.

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 2015 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 27, 2015, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

References:

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/aihmorigins1.html

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/30/history-native-amer...

http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/ This Web portal is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

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