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November marks American Indian, Alaska Native History Month

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Thomas McPeak II
  • 58th Airlift Squadron
November is National American Indian Heritage Month. During this month Americans are asked to recognize American Indians and Alaskan Natives for all of their significant contributions to the United States of America.

An early advocate to officially recognize Native Americans for what they have done for the United States was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian who was the Director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. To draw national attention to his cause, he called upon the Boy Scouts of America to help recognize Native Americans. The Native Americans were often hired to teach the Boy Scouts outdoor and survival skills.

In 1915, at the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting, a plan celebrating American Indian Day was formally approved. Reverend Sherman Coolidge, president of the Association, an Arapahoe, called upon the country to officially recognize Native Americans. He delivered a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, acknowledging the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day to honor American Indians as citizens.

Prior to the proclamation, Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, rode horseback from state to state, appealing for an endorsement to recognize American Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, Red Fox James presented the endorsements of 24 state governments to the White House expecting all his hard work to pay off thus recognition of Native Americans would become a legal holiday.

Many states took it upon themselves to set aside a day to recognize Native Americans. The Governor of New York stated they would recognize Native Americans on the second Saturday in May, while other states chose different days to non-officially recognize Native Americans. Some states celebrated the forth Friday in September and others designated Columbus Day as Native American Day. Many states observed these days without any legal recognition as a national holiday until 75 years later.

On Aug. 3, 1990, a Joint Resolution designating the month of November as "National American Indian Heritage Month" was approved by President George H. W. Bush.

American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month are observed, the entire month of November, to celebrated Native American cultures and educate the public about the significant contributions and traditions of the Native American people.