Home National news Native American Heritage Day follows National Day of Mourning

Native American Heritage Day follows National Day of Mourning

by PRIDE Newsdesk

1882 studio portrait of the (then) last surviving Six Nations warriors who fought with the British in the War of 1812: (left to right) Sakawaraton a.k.a. John Smoke Johnson (born circa 1792), John Tutela (born ca. 1797) and Young Warner (born ca. 1794). Portrait taken in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. (Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

Native American Heritage Day is officially a civil holiday observed on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. This year’s observance falls on Friday, November 26, 2021. President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.), to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day as a lame duck President in 2008. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and 184 federally recognized tribes, and designated a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell, former member of the United States Senate from Colorado (1993-2005), one of only four Native Americans elected to the U.S. Senate. (public domain)

The Native American Heritage Day Bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies and activities. It also encourages public elementary and secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, and contributions.

Previously, President George H. W. Bush had declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month on August 3, 1990, thereafter commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month. This commemorative month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life.

This gives Native people the opportunity to express to their community, both city, county and state officials their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area. Federal Agencies are encouraged to provide educational programs for their employees regarding Native American history, rights, culture and contemporary issues, to better assist them in their jobs and for overall awareness.

Geronimo, Chiricahua Apache leader. Photograph by Frank A. Rinehart, 1898. Part of the Rinehart Indian Photographs collection, Haskell Indian Nations University. (public domain)

Since 1970, Indigenous people & their allies have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native people do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims & other European settlers.

Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.

The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by then Massachusetts Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men. About the only true thing in the whole mythology of Thanksgiving is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in their “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for their help was genocide, theft of their lands, and never-ending repression.

The 52nd Annual National Day of Mourning is Thursday, November 25, 2021, beginning at 12:00 Noon at Cole’s Hill, Plymouth, MA. Learn more about it at the United American Indians of New England website: http://www.uaine.org/

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