November: Native American Heritage Month

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Native American Heritage month first began as a proposal passed in 1915, stating there should be an American Indian Day to honor the first Americans. Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y, proposed a special day during which all Americans would remember those who roamed in the Americas before European exploration.

The Congress of American Indians approved his proposal and it was passed to President Calvin Coolidge who issued a proclamation on Sept. 28th, 1915, explaining the second Saturday in May would be dedicated to learning about the U.S. American Indians.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush elaborated on American Indian Day, creating Native American Heritage Month for November. A similar proclamation, along with Native American Heritage Month, is the National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month that has been celebrated annually since 1994.

Today, many classes around the country are dedicated to learning about the life and history of American Indians during Native American Heritage month. The classes teach: food, culture, way of life and the history of the Native Americans. During the month-long celebration many children dress up in costumes to represent the tribes, make pictures and give presentations.

Also, many libraries have special exhibits committed to the Native American culture and history. It is fitting that the month falls in November because of its connection to Thanksgiving. It celebrates the uncharacteristic cooperation and peace between the Europeans and the Native Americans, the willingness of the local tribes to share their wisdom and teach the settlers how to survive.

Native American History month is a favorable time to learn more about the first inhabitants of the United States. Without the help of the natives, the European settlers would not have survived in the severe conditions of the new world’s great outdoors and our country may be quite different today.