Thursday, November 12, 2009

Native American Heritage Month

As we embark on the close of another year, we would like to pay homage to the Native American population in our society during Native American Heritage Month.

First Americans Day was first celebrated around the turn of the century when Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, Director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside one day for this special group of people. As a result, for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation 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 Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.
The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday. (Retrieved November 4, 2009, Library of Congress)

So how did this one day develop into a month long celebration?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. (Retrieved November 4, 2009, Library of Congress)

Want to learn about this culture and have fun in the process? Great! To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, the Las Vegas–Clark County Library District has planned several programs for your enjoyment. Click here to find out about all these events.

Don’t forget to check out these great library resources to find out more information about this topic.

American Indian Experience

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