At Native Pride, we had originally planned to celebrate this special month with a Haudenosaunee Heritage Day and Smoke Dance Contest. However, the rising COVID rate and our concern for the safety and well-being of our family, friends, and customers encouraged us to postpone the event until the spring.
In the meantime, we want to share with you the story of how National Native American Heritage Month came to be, in great part due to a member of our own Seneca Nation, Dr. Arthur C. Parker. Dr. Parker was born on the Cattaraugus Reservation in 1881. He was the son of Frederick Ely Parker, who was one-half Seneca, and his wife Geneva Hortenese Griswold, of Scots-English-American descent, who taught school on the reservation.
In his career, Dr. Parker became nationally respected as the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester and a noted authority on American Indian culture. It was that authority that enabled him to persuade the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans,” which they did annually for three years.
In 1915, the Congress of the American Indian Association (CAIA) advanced Dr. Parker’s initiative by formally directing CAIA president/Arapahoe Nation Member, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, to call upon the American nation to observe such a day.
In response, President Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915 containing the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens and declaring the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day.
Seventy-five years later, President George H. W. Bush, approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.
Subsequently, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed “The Native American Heritage Day Resolution,” designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day,” which received unanimous support from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
We are proud to acknowledge our Seneca ancestor, Dr. Arthur Parker, and his dedication to ensuring that Native People be nationally honored and recognized for our cherished legacy, rich cultures, and heroic military service.