National American Indian Heritage Month

For almost one hundred years, Americans both Indian and non-Indian have urged that there be permanently designated by the nation a special place on the calendar to honor the contributions, achievements, sacrifices, and cultural and historical legacy of the original inhabitants of what is now the United States and their descendants: the American Indian and Alaska Native people.

The first time an American Indian Day was formally designated in the U.S. may have been in 1916, when the governor of New York fixed the second Saturday in May for his state’s observance. Several states celebrated the fourth Friday in September as American Indian Day.

In 1919, the Illinois state legislature enacted a bill doing so. In Massachusetts, the governor issued a proclamation, in accordance with a 1935 law, naming the day that would become American Indian Day in any given year.

In 1968, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed a resolution designating the fourth Friday in September as American Indian Day. In 1998, the California State Assembly enacted legislation creating Native American Day as an official state holiday.

In 1989, the South Dakota state legislature passed a bill proclaiming 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between the state’s American Indian and White citizens. Pursuant to that act, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson designated Columbus Day as the state’s American Indian Day, thereby making it a state-sanctioned holiday.


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