National Native American Heritage Day Honors Rich Cultures and Contributions, Friday, November 24, 2023

FILE PHOTO: Indiana University students, and members of the Bloomington community marched from Dunn Meadow to the Monroe County Courthouse, listened to speakers, and watched Mexica dancers during the celebration of the first Indigenous Peoples Day in Bloomington, Monday, October 14, 2019. A resolution passed by the Bloomington City Council officially puts Indigenous Peoples Day on the calendar as a holiday every second Monday of October. City council members Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Dorothy Granger were at the courthouse to celebrate the holiday. Piedmont-Smith read the resolution to the group gathered at the courthouse. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

November 23, 2023

On the day after Thanksgiving, the United States commemorates National Native American Heritage Day, celebrating the invaluable contributions, vibrant cultures, and deep-rooted traditions of American Indians across the nation. This annual observance aims to honor their heritage while acknowledging their significant impact on various aspects of society.

Dating back to Red Fox James’s initiative in 1914, where he rode horseback across the country seeking endorsement from 24 states for a national day honoring Native Americans, the recognition has evolved significantly. Despite the government’s initial reluctance, individual states like New York designated the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day. It wasn’t until 1986 that the 99th Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim American Indian Week, eventually leading to November being declared as National American Indian Heritage Month.

With the enactment of the Native American Heritage Day Act in 2008 by Congress and President George W. Bush’s signature, November saw the establishment of National Native American Heritage Day, fostering a day dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of Native Americans.

This year’s celebration spotlights remarkable figures such as Carol Metcalf-Gardipe, an award-winning geologist whose roles include directing the American Indian Engineering Program and co-founding the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Another notable figure is Lila Downs, the Grammy Award-winning musician known for her fusion of Latin and jazz influences in her music, captivating a global audience while representing her heritage proudly.

Representative Deb Haaland, serving in Congress since 2019, stands as a prominent figure, championing Native American representation in government committees like the Armed Services Committee and Natural Resources Committee. Additionally, figures like Emory Sekaquaptewa, revered for developing the first Hopi language dictionary, and Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble, the first full-blooded Sioux Indian to receive the Medal of Honor, showcase the immense contributions and diverse talents of Native Americans across various fields.

To honor and celebrate National Native American Heritage Day, various activities are encouraged, including reading stories or watching movies by Native American creators, visiting Native American museums or heritage centers, trying traditional Native American recipes, and participating in cultural events or seminars.

As the nation commemorates this day, it serves as a reminder to recognize and appreciate the resilience, wisdom, and rich heritage of Native American communities that continue to shape and enrich the fabric of American society.

The celebration of National Native American Heritage Day continues annually on the day after Thanksgiving, inviting people to embrace and appreciate the cultural richness and contributions of Native American communities across the United States.


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