Native Americans, culture honored on Native American Heritage Day

US & World

FILE- Supporters of Native Americans pause following a prayer during the 38th National Day of Mourning at Coles Hill in Plymouth, Mass., on Nov. 22, 2007. Denouncing centuries of racism and mistreatment of Indigenous people, members of Native American tribes from around New England will gather on Thanksgiving 2021 for a solemn National Day of Mourning observance. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)

(WOWK) – Today is Native American Heritage Day. The day was adopted by a proclamation to recognize the contributions and impacts Native Americans and Native American culture have made in the United States.

Honoring the cultures and contributions of Native Americans, President Joe Biden tweeted, “On Native American Heritage Day and every day, we honor the strong and enduring cultures and contributions of all Native Americans. We recommit ourselves to strengthening Tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and upholding our Tribal trust and treaty responsibilities.”

Earlier this year, Representative Deb Haaland was confirmed by Congress as Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency. Prior to her historic appointment, Native American tribes and environmental groups spent weeks campaigning in support of Haaland.

To recognize Native American Heritage Day, she said, “Native Americans are the keepers of traditions and defenders of our natural resources. This Native American Heritage Day, I honor our culture and our ancestors. At @Interior [US Department of the Interior], we will continue to include Indigenous knowledge as we protect our lands for future generations.”

According to the National Native American Heritage Month website, November was first proclaimed as Native American Heritage Month in 1990 by then-President George H. W. Bush approving a joint resolution for “National American Indian Heritage Month.” The website says since then, a proclamation with variants of the name has been issued each November since 1994.

The Native American Heritage Month website also says as early as the turn of the 20th Century, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York, began advocating for a day “of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S.”

In 1915, plans for an “American Indian Day” were approved at the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, according to the website. The organization’s president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, issued a proclamation in September of that year that dubbed the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day. New York became the first state to recognize the day in May 1916, the website says.

The National Library of Medicines website’s Native Voices webpage states in 2009, then-President Barack Obama signed the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, which had been passed by Congress. The Act designated the day following Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.

The United States Census Bureau shared the following excerpt of Biden’s 2021 proclamation of National Native American Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Day through The American Presidency Project:

“The United States of America was founded on an idea: that all of us are created equal and deserve equal treatment, equal dignity, and equal opportunity throughout our lives. Throughout our history—though we have always strived to live up to that idea and have never walked away from it—the fact remains that we have fallen short many times. Far too often in our founding era and in the centuries since, the promise of our Nation has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial. 

“Despite a painful history marked by unjust Federal policies of assimilation and termination, American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have persevered. During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the countless contributions of Native peoples past and present, honor the influence they have had on the advancement of our Nation, and recommit ourselves to upholding trust and treaty responsibilities, strengthening Tribal sovereignty, and advancing Tribal self-determination… 

“I urge all Americans, as well as their elected representatives at the Federal, State, and local levels, to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities, and to celebrate November 26, 2021, as Native American Heritage Day.”

President Joe Biden, Proclamation 10302—National Native American Heritage Month, 2021

Read the full proclamation here.

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