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The History of Native American Heritage Month Thumbnail

The History of Native American Heritage Month

November is the month to celebrate Native American heritage, including celebrating the culture, accomplishments, and contributions of its people. Celebrations happen across the U.S. during this month. Spectators enjoy native dances, music and traditions, at festivals and events throughout the month. Learn how the month got its start and evolved into the celebration it is today.

Dr. Arthur C. Parker

One of the earliest supporters of establishing a day to celebrate Native American heritage was Dr. Arthur Parker, director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester and a Seneca Indian. He convinced the Boy Scouts of America to have a day to celebrate the “First Americans.” They adopted such a day for three years.

Annual Congress of the American Indian Association Meeting

The Congress of the American Indian Association formally approved a plan in 1915 to annually celebrate American Indian Day.

Yet, the meeting was not the only effort that year to gain recognition for the holiday. Red James Fox, a member of the Blackfoot tribe, rode his horse from state to state to seek endorsements from each state government to present to the White House to get a national day proclaimed. Unfortunately, no national date was set until much later.

On September 28, 1915, President Coolidge proclaimed the second Saturday in May as the official celebration date.

New York Leads the Pack

The first state-sanctioned American Indian Day came from New York, which was celebrated in 1916 on the second Saturday in May. Several states followed the trend, though many chose the day of celebration as the fourth Friday in September.

American Indian Week Becomes a Monthlong Event

The celebration we know today originally started in the 1980s when President Reagan deemed the week of November 23-30, 1986, as “American Indian Week.” It wasn’t until 1990, when President George H.W. Bush changed the weeklong celebration into a monthlong one. Each subsequent president proclaimed the month of November as the time the country would celebrate the original inhabitants of the United States.

The month of November is now recognized as the time to celebrate the traditions and culture of the Indigenous people. This celebration includes both Native Americans and Native Alaskans and the contributions they made to the United States.

Content provider: WriterAccess

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Native American Heritage Month, PBS, https://www.pbs.org/specials/native-american-heritage-month/

About National Native American Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/


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