We often blog about various commemorative events, and I wanted to draw attention to November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This began as a commemorative week in 1986 when Congress passed Pub.L. 99-471 designating November 23-30 as American Indian Week. As directed by Congress in this law, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 5577 in which he recognized that ”Americans we know as American Indians and Native Americans were the first explorers and settlers of the areas that now make up the United States,” and the contributions made by the American Indians ”in every area of endeavor and American life, and our literature and all our arts draw upon Indian themes and wisdom.” The President called upon all Americans to observe this week with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
For the next several years Congress passed laws designating a week in the fall as American Indian week – in 1988, the commemorative week was moved to September because the harvest season begins at the end of that month. Then in 1990, Congress passed Pub.L. 101-343, which designated the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month and recognized the American Indians as “the original inhabitants of the lands that now constitute the United States of America.” Since 1990, Congress and President have continued to recognize November as National American Indian Heritage Month and to call upon the peoples of the United States to celebrate and honor the original inhabitants of our nation.