Celebrate Native American Heritage this November

November marks the celebration of Native American Heritage Month, which pays tribute to the ancestry, heritage, and many significant contributions of Native Americans.

While the official recognition of Native American Heritage Month is a relatively recent development, there were many early proponents of designating a time period to celebrate the contributions of American Indians. One of the first outspoken proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY. In 1911, he co-founded the Society of American Indians to help educate the public about American Indians.

On September 28, 1915, the president of the American Indian Association issued a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day. The year before this proclamation had been issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode state-to-state on horseback gathering approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsement of 24 state governments to officials at the White House. Despite his hard work, there is no record of a national day being proclaimed at that time.

Several states began to hold individual celebrations, starting in May of 1916, when the first American Indian Day was celebrated in the state of New York. Around the same time, many states named the fourth Friday in September as American Indian Day. In 1919, legislators in Illinois enacted an official day of celebration.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution that designated November of that year as the first National American Indian Heritage Month. Similar proclamations, under various names, have been issued every year since 1994.

WorldStrides groups traveling to Washington, D.C., and New York City can visit the two locations of the National Museum of the American Indian, the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of Native Americans. The museum was established by an act of Congress in 1989.

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