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American Indian Heritage Month

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina --    American Indian Heritage Month is observed every November in the United States. 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, declaring 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, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback
from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 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 N.Y.. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in Sept. In Ill., 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 recognition as a national legal holiday.

   In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating Nov. as "National American Indian Heritage Month."