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Native American Heritage Month

American Indian Heritage Month is observed every November in the United States.

Native Americans are far more a part of history, not just of the United States, but of every country on the American continents, than they are given credit for. They've provided significant manpower and resources that helped lay the foundations of all the countries that have been created and built on both American continents.

North and South America was already home to millions of Native Americans before Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain. They had their own nations, communities, languages, and religions. They farmed, hunted, fished, and had complex cultures and traditions, and most of all, they were not savages as they have often been depicted.

There were literally hundred of tribes, sub tribes, and individual groups living in an area that ranged from the northern most tip of North America, from Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and the islands in the Bering Strait to the southern most tip of South America that includes present day Chile and Argentina.

According to the most recent census, there are more than 2.5 million Native Americans living in the United States. There are more than 550 federally recognized tribes that exist within 33 states as sovereign nations, the two largest being the Navajo nation, with and estimated 308,000 members, and the Cherokee nation, with an estimated 285,000 members. In all, there are about 200 different Native American languages still spoken today.

It is estimated that there is an estimated 10 million or more full blooded Native Americans living throughout North and South America today and many more who have Native American ancestry.

Many Native Americans have fought and died defending the United States of America in wars dating back to the American Revolution. Many are highly decorated war heroes who served gallantly as soldiers and sailors in all branches of the U. S. military. They served with honor and distinction.

As a result of their honorable service during World War I, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act which granted full U.S. citizenship to Native Americans who had not been granted citizenship by other means. The act became law when it was signed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

For years, efforts had been under way to gain recognition for the contributions that Native Americans had made to the development and growth of the United States.

  • Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian helped bring attention to the cause when he persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans."
  • On September 28, 1915, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, from the Arapahoe Nation, led the call to proclaim the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day.
  • In 1916, New York became the first state to designated a specific day as American Indian Day. It was celebrated each year on the second Saturday in May.
  • Other states dedicated Columbus Day as Native American Day.
  • Since the 1970s, Congress has passed legislation designating a day, a week or a month to recognize and commemorate Native American heritage.
  •  In 1986, Congress passed a law authorizing and requesting President Ronald Reagan to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986 as American Indian Week.
  • In 1990, a joint congressional resolution was signed by President George H. W. Bush making November the National Native American Heritage Month.
  • In 2009, Congress passed and President
    George W. Bush signed legislation that established the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day of each year as “Native American Heritage Day.”
  • In 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed November as National Native American Heritage Month and November 23rd as Native American Heritage Day.

You can celebrate Native American Heritage Month by learning about Native Americans and how they helped shape the United States into the great country it is today.

  • Visit Native American villages and learn about their culture.
  • Eat Native American foods.
  • Watch movies and documentaries about Native Americans and their lifestyles.
  • Read books written by Native American authors.
  • Enjoy Native American arts and crafts.
  • Learn Native American poetry.
  • Enjoy Native American songs and dances.

What started out as an effort to bring long overdue recognition of Native Americans has led to a whole month that is dedicated to acknowledging the contributions that Native Americans have made throughout the history of the United States of America.

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