November is Native American Heritage Month. And if you happen to be near Raleigh this weekend, visit the North Carolina Museum of History’s 21st Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration. The festival includes musicians, dancers, artists, storytellers, and authors from North Carolina’s tribal communities. Visit and learn about the state’s American Indian culture! To see a schedule of the day’s events (and a preview from photos and video of past years’ celebrations), visit this page: http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/events/AIHC-2016/photos-and-videos.
Efforts to honor American Indians with a national commemoration began more than a century ago. Arthur Caswell Parker, an historian, anthropologist and member of the Seneca Nation, was the first American Indian to hold the post of Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and he was a vocal advocate of citizenship rights for Native Americans and the adoption of national commemorative day. Parker was a founder of the Society of American Indians and the National Congress of American Indians. At Parker’s urging, the Boy Scouts of America observed a day for American Indians for a few years during the early decades of the 20th century.
And then in 1915, the National Congress of American Indians approved a plan to authorize its president, the Rev. Sherman Coolidge, a member of the Arapahoe Nation, to ask the U.S. Congress to honor an American Indian Day. President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation on September 28, 1915 declaring the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day. The following year, New York proclaimed the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day. Other states joined the effort at various times throughout the 20th century, designating a special day, although not always in May, to celebrate the heritage and contributions to the nation of American Indians.
In 1976, the U.S. Congress authorized President Gerald Ford to proclaim a week in October as Native American Awareness Week. Since that time, the President and Congress have issued annual proclamations for the observance. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint Congressional resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month, and similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994. This year, on October 31, President Obama declared November as National Native American Heritage Month.
Today, the state of North Carolina is home to more than 100,000 persons who are American Indians. You can learn about North Carolina’s tribal communities by visiting the North Carolina Commission of Indians Affairs at: http://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/american-indians/nc-tribal-communities.
— Kay Tillotson, Genealogical Research Librarian, Government & Heritage Library
For more information on the history of honoring American Indians, American Indian tribes, and North Carolina’s American Indian tribes and heritage, visit these resources:
- North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs: http://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/american-indians/nc-tribal-communities
- U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs, National Native American Heritage Month Celebration: http://www.bia.gov/DocumentLibrary/HeritageMonth/
- NCpedia resources: http://ncpedia.org/exploring-north-carolina-native
- Native American Heritage Month: http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/about/
- History of Native American Heritage Month: http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xnifc/documents/text/idc015908.pdf