National Native American Heritage Month

What started in the 1900s as an effort to celebrate a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States, has since resulted in a month being designated for celebration and recognition. Dr. Arthur C. Parker, of the Seneca, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they celebrated. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, formally approved a plan concerning “American Indian Day.” Its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, of the Arapahoe, called upon the country to observe the day. A proclamation was issued on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an “American Indian Day” and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Native Americans as citizens.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “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.

Famous Native Americans include Sacajawea, who led Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Western United States on an expedition in 1806. Geronimo was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who defended his people against the encroachment of the US on their tribal lands for over 25 years, a famous military leader. More recently, John Herrington, the astronaut of the Chickasaw Nation, was the first Native American to walk in space when launched on November 23, 2002, aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

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