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Native American Heritage Month - 2011

November 2011
National Native American Heritage Month

National Native American Heritage Month

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.

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.

Information courtesy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior.

View the Native American Heritage Month website for more information.


Did You Know?

  • Acoma Sky City: The adobe houses, plazas, and walkways on the 367-foot tall mesa have been used for nearly one thousand years making Acoma Sky City the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. To learn more, check out the Acoma History page on the Sky City Cultural Center website.
  • First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson was a direct descendant of the famous Native American, Pocahontas. Mrs. Wilson was proud of her connection to the legendary princess and surrounded herself with depictions of her illustrious ancestor. These mementoes can be seen today on a visit to Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site in Washington, DC.
  • As of 2010, the estimated population of American Indians and Alaska Natives was 2.9 million - 0.9% of the total population. Read more: American Indians: Census Facts —
  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the two largest American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are the Navajo (308,013) and the Cherokee (285,476).