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Native American Heritage

An overview of Native American Culture and History

What is Native American Heritage Month?

National Native American Heritage Month

How did this month come about?

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.

  • 1914: Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rides horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. 
  • 1915: Congress of the American Indian Association meets to approve a plan concerning American Indian Day. President Coolidge issues a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day.
  • 1916: The governor of Illinois declares the second Saturday in May to be celebrated as American Indian Day.
  • 1919: Several states follow suit and designate the fourth Friday in September to celebrate.
  • 1990: President George H. W. Bush approves a joint resolution designating November 1990 as "National American Indian Heritage Month". Similar proclamations have been made each year since 1994.
  • Present: Several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

Executive and Legislative Documents

The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Native American Heritage Month. Find our more about this on the Library of Congress web page.

About this Site

This Web portal is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Other Dedicated Web Sites

 

National Native American Heritage Month: Honoring Veterans

 

National Native American Heritage Month 2019

 

National Native American Heritage Month Ceremony

National Native American Heritage Month

 

Films on Demand: First Native Americans

About 15,000 years ago, Native Americans moved south from Beringia and developed new tools and weapons that became the distinctive Clovis People culture. Chatters says Naia’s people were new to the area as indicated by the growth patterns showing that there were periods of malnourishment. Through the teeth and jawbone of Naia, he can see that one season every year, she did not eat enough protein, which shows they did not know how to obtain it. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Films on Demand: Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience

This compelling one hour documentary invites viewers into the lives of contemporary Native Americans. It dispels the myth that American Indians have disappeared from the American horizon, and reveals how they continue to persist, heal from the past, confront the challenges of today, keep their culture alive, and make significant contributions to society. Their experiences will deeply touch both Natives and non-Natives and help build bridges of understanding, respect, and communication. The tragic history of Native Americans is considered by many to be our “American Holocaust.” This can be seen in the history of the Boarding School Era, during which time Native children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed into boarding schools. Interviewees explain how this past trauma continues to negatively impact their emotional and physical health today and contribute to urgent social problems. To help heal this historical trauma, First Nations people are reclaiming their spiritual and cultural identity. The stories shared in this documentary are powerful, startling, despairing and inspiring. They reflect an American history fraught with the systematic destruction of a people. Yet, amidst the debris of suffering and trauma, there is resilience and a profound remembering and healing taking place today, which will also benefit the next Seven Generations.