November is National American Indian Heritage Month!
If you’ve never heard of American Indian Heritage Month or don’t know about the history of it, here’s some background, according to the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs:
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.
One of the very 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, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and 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.
American Indian Tribes
The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of N.Y. 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.
In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994.
So, what are you going to do to celebrate? Here are some ideas: (They may sound trite at first, but they are really festive and could be a lot of fun!)
1. Rent or buy a movie that is by/for/about Native Americans and watch it with your family or close friends. Here are some of my favorites: Smoke Signals, Skins, and Lakota Woman.
2. Use a recipe for traditional or modern Native American foods and have a pot luck dinner with friends. For example, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, and chocolate!
3. Take an online Native American trivia quiz. Then, tell your friends, family and co-workers to take it and see who scores higher.
4. Take a trip to a reservation near you or if you’re due for a vacation, consider visiting a reservation in another state.
5. Buy or check out from your local library a book written by a Native American author and read it. Then, pass it along or recommend it to a friend.
6. Visit a Native American museum such as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City or Washington, DC, The Autry National Center in Los Angeles or a museum or cultural center near you.
7. Google search Native American related events in your area. Here are some in Washington, DC.
8. Listen to Native American music.
9. Read up on modern Native American history, including political movements and activism.
10. Check out my YouTube channel and support a Native American journalist!
There are hundreds of ideas out there, but these should get your creative juices flowing. Feel free to share some more ideas in the comments section!
Happy National American Indian Heritage Month!!!