American Indian Heritage Day
When is American Indian Heritage Day?
American Indian Heritage Day is recognized on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. Also called Native American Heritage Day, this is a relatively new holiday that has gained popularity in many communities and institutions across the country. The purpose is to recognize all of the important contributions Native Americans have made to culture and society.
History and Founding
The idea for American Indian Heritage Day was started by former California Congressman Joe Baca through the introduction of the Native American Heritage Day Bill in 2007. It called for the national designation of the day after Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans. The bill went on to pass unanimously through both the Senate and the House, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in October 2008. The National Indian Gaming Association also supported the passage of this bill. The first Native American Heritage Day was observed on November 28, 2008.
Native American Heritage Day is a designated holiday in the United States, but it isn’t a public one. This means that businesses and government agencies aren’t required to close. However, given the close proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday in November, many institutions are closed on the date anyway. American Indian Heritage Day coincides with the American shopping day of “Black Friday.”
Types of Celebrations
Native American heritage as at the heart of this holiday. Not only have Native Americans made significant contributions to the arts, but their traditions have widely been utilized in the sciences as well as medicine. Sadly, many cultural traditions were lost after Europeans inhabited the Americas. It’s important to Americans to recognize that the contributions and heritage of indigenous cultures are not forgotten, and to carry out the traditions in the future. American Indian Heritage Day provides the opportunity to do so for at least one day out of the year.
American Indian Heritage Day is primarily celebrated through ceremonies and festivals that recreate the customs of Native Americans. Cultural dances and songs may be presented, as well as reenactments of significant events in Native American history. Public schools celebrate this holiday through special educational seminars that showcase the significance of Native American customs. Some teachers choose to highlight the subject throughout the whole month of November.
Expansion of the Holiday
While American Indian Heritage Day is celebrated on a national level, some communities have taken it up as well. For example, Maryland considers it a state holiday. This means that all statewide institutions, such as schools, libraries and government agencies are all closed to recognize the holiday. Maryland has celebrated the day as American Indian Heritage Day since 2008, while the holiday is better known as Native American Heritage Day on the national level.
The idea of a holiday to celebrate Native American heritage has also extended to even smaller institutions. For example, the University of Montana holds a campus-wide celebration of American Indian Heritage Day. This holiday, however, is on a different date in September, unlike the national holiday of Native American Heritage Day in November.