National American Indian Heritage Month
National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the peoples who were the original inhabitants, explorers and settlers of the United States.
“National American Indian Heritage Month” had its origins in 1986 when Congress passed Pub. L. 99-471 (PDF, 93KB) which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.” As directed by Congress, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 5577 in November 1986 proclaiming the first American Indian Week. Both law and proclamation recognized the American Indians as the first inhabitants of the lands that now constitute the United States as well as making mention of their contributions to American society:
Many of the foods we eat and the medicines and remedies we use were introduced by Indians and more than one highway follows an Indian trail. Indians make contributions in every area of endeavor and American life, and our literature and all our arts draw upon Indian themes and wisdom. Countless American Indians have served in our Armed Forces and have fought valiantly for our country.
In 1987 Congress passed Pub. L. 100-171 which again called upon the President to designate the week of November 22-28, 1987 as “American Indian Week” while in 1988 Congress passed Pub. L. 100-450 which designated the week of September 23-30, 1988 as “National American Indian Heritage Week.” According to Pub. L. 100-450 this change from November to September was made because “the last week of September begins the harvest season in the United States.” Then in 1989 Congress passed Pub. L. 101-188 which asked the President to proclaim the week of December 3-9, 1989 as “National American Indian Heritage Week.”
In 1990 Congress passed Pub. L. 101-343 (PDF, 211KB) which authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating the month of November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Congress chose the month of the November to recognize the American Indians as this month concluded the traditional harvest season and was generally a time of thanksgiving and celebration for the American Indians. President George H.W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 6230 which paid tribute to the rich history and culture of the American Indian tribes. In 1991 Congress passed Pub. L. 102-123 which authorized and requested the President proclaim the months of November 1991 and 1992 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Subsequently, Congress passed Pub. L. 103-462 authorized the President to proclaim November 1993 and 1994 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”
Since 1995 Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump have issued annual proclamations which designate November as National American Indian Heritage Month, or since 2009 as National Native American Heritage Month. These proclamations celebrate the contributions of the American Indians and urge the peoples of the United States to learn more about the American Indian cultures.