October 21, 2020

American Indian Heritage Day

Since early in the twentieth century Americans of all heritages have worked together to establish a day that could be put aside to honor Native Americans.

Many states have recognized American Indian Day at different times throughout the century.

In 2009, President George W. Bush signed legislation that recognized the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.

Although the first “American Indian Day” was declared in the state of New York in 1918, a month long recognition of Native Americans was not achieved until 1990.

In each of the previous four years, Congress had enacted legislation designating “American Indian Heritage Week.”

The purpose of National American Heritage Month is to honor and recognize the original peoples of this land. A 1996 proclamation details their contributions to the past and to the future.

In the days leading up to the celebrations, schools are encouraged to teach children about the rich history of the American Indians, and about their culture and beliefs.

The Indians originally came to the Americas through a land bridge that existed between Asia and Alaska. This may have been up to twelve centuries ago.

Gradually, they moved south and created around ten micro-cultures when groups established themselves in different parts of land. There are now over 500 recognized Indian tribes.

It is believed that, at its height, the population may have been as high as fifteen million people.

Currently, there are between three and four million Native Americans in the USA and Alaska. Native Americans contribute much richness to the culture of America and bring a great respect for their history, for the land and for nature.

May we all take time during our Thanksgiving festivities to remember the original people of our country. Many of our ancestors are descendants of these people. They taught us many skills that we use in our daily lives.

Although, we may not be aware of all the many lessons we have learned from these people, let us remember our heritage and our ancestors while giving thanks for their diligence and perseverance and that we are so blessed to live in such a great, free country.

Thanks for our Native Americans and may they continue to thrive.

Mary H. Lane, James Stewart Chapter NSDAR

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