Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
(Notes from September 28, 1990 release by Senate Committee on Indian Affairs)
Washington, DC - On August 3, 1990, President Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
As we near the 500th Anniversary of the "discovery" of Columbus by American Indians, the time has come for American Indians, the original peoples of this land, to be honored and recognized by our country with the designation of a National American Indian Heritage Month.
For the past 4 years, Congress has enacted legislation designating American Indian Heritage Week, thus meeting the eligibility criteria for the establishment of a full month of celebration in 1990. Our past and present first Americans deserve a special month to honor their contributions to this nation as much as other Americans are recognized with a commemorative month each year.
One of the most important themes now being addressed by contemporary American Indians focuses on "the future of our children seven generations to come." This traditional Indian concept for future planning brings to light historical and cultural approaches to protecting our environment, mother earth and father sky, reinforcing our families, and preserving our rich, cultural heritage.
One goal is to bring elders together with the children so our senior citizens can benefit by learning traditional knowledge and the principles of respect. Together, young and old, we can go hand in hand, to ensure a brighter future for the coming generations.
This will also be a time to give thanks for our young generation of Indians as they are rapidly excelling and achieving in areas such as education, law, arts, military, tribal leadership, entrepreneurship, etc. They are tomorrow's leaders and will soon reshape Indian life across the country. We cannot let these future leaders leave their heritage behind. It is our responsibility to teach them what they can pass on to future generations as our grandparents have taught us. "They are young once, but Indian forever."
We call upon the nation, educators, Indian organizations and communities, federal agencies that regularly schedule annual cultural events, to participate in a full month of celebration and awareness of the contributions and achievements of the past and present first Americans during the month of November. There exists a growing need to help coordinate a united effort between schools, Native American communities and organizations, and the society as a whole in this special awareness month.
Activities planned will focus on Native American contributions to this nation for the past five centuries such as the foundation of the U.S. Constitution that was based on the government of the e Iroquois Confederacy of Nations.
We celebrate this commemorative month during a time when fall harvest ceremonies are conducted by Native Americans to give thanks for a good year’s crop. Other Native ceremonies include world renewal ceremonies, Pow Wows, Native American Church ceremonies, Yei-Bei-Cheii dances, Buffalo dances, Mid-Winter ceremonies, and various feasts.
At schools across the country, Native American speakers, artisans, dancers, crafts people, story tellers and Indian elders share their skills and knowledge with younger generations of Indians and non Indians. For Indian students, these activities will foster increased pride and self awareness. Non-Indian students will develop an appreciation of the culture and heritage of their first American friends and a better understanding of our shared history.
An educational emphasis on the role of Indian people in the history of America is of special importance. American children have been taught for generations, that Columbus discovered America, but it was the American Indian who was there to greet him.
Retaining our Native language is encouraged and we believe, essential to the survival of our culture. In the past, our grandparents were punished for speaking their native tongue and were forced to speak English.
Indian artisans will be acknowledged for their exceptional talent and creativity. Through their art, they have made us proud to be American Indians. They have shown the world the greatness of American Indians and have achieved a special market place beyond all our dreams.
National American Indian Heritage Month will be a time to honor our Native Veterans who have served this country in numbers which far exceed their representation in the US population. Indians have served in the armed forces on a ratio that is 33 percent higher than the American population as a whole, and more than 50 percent of all Indians serving this country served in combat arms – a rate far higher than other segment of the population. They have saved this great nation time and again. Without the food supplied by the Indians, George Washington and his troops would not have survived the winter at Valley Forge. The Indian Code Talkers saved this country during World War Two. Many are currently serving today.
National American Indian Heritage Month will mark a time in which we as a nation can express our gratitude and appreciation for the contributions of Native Americans, the first Americans.
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