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National Native American Heritage Month

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By the Numbers

Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups.

Portrait of President Barack Obama

"American Indians and Alaska Natives enrich every aspect of our country. As the first to live on this land, Native Americans and their traditions and values inspired -- and continue to inspire -- the ideals of self-governance and determination that are the framework of our Nation."

- President Barack Obama Proclamation

Facts of the Day

November 2015

  • November 1, 2015

    November is National American Indian Heritage Month, honoring American Indians and Alaska Natives. This year, the Society of American Indian Government Employees has selected the theme "Growing Native Leaders: Enhancing Our Seven Generations."

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  • November 2, 2015

    In 1914, Red Fox James, a Blackfeet, rode on horseback from state to state seeking support for a day to honor American Indians. A year later, James presented the endorsements of 24 state governments to the White House. There is no record of a national day being proclaimed, despite his efforts.

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  • November 3, 2015

    "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."

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  • November 4, 2015

    "Congress has recognized the right of tribes to have a greater say over the development and implementation of federal programs and policies that directly impact on them and their tribal members." It did so by enacting two major pieces of legislation that together embody the important concepts of tribal self-determination and self-governance: The Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, as amended (25 U.S.C." 450 et seq." ) and the Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994 (25 U.S.C." 458aa et seq." )."

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  • November 5, 2015

    In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, also known as the Snyder Act, giving American Indians the right to vote." After a survey in 1938 found that eight states still prohibited Indians from voting, several cases were brought to the Supreme Court." Utah, Minnesota, and Arizona were the last states to allow the vote, and it wasn’t until 1965 that all barriers to American Indians were eliminated in the United States."

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  • November 6, 2015

    "Native Alaskan tribes belong to five geographic areas, are organized under 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations, and speak 22 different dialects." They also have 11 distinct cultures."

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  • November 7, 2015

    In 2002, astronaut and Chickasaw Indian John Bennett Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to orbit the Earth." He carried a ceramic Hopi pot emblazoned with three corn motifs into space, 250 miles above the surface of the planet." Herrington also carried a decorated eagle feather given to him by an Elder of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which was floated in the International Space Station airlock."

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  • November 8, 2015

    American Indians and Alaska Natives come from a multitude of different cultures with diverse languages, and for thousands of years used oral tradition to pass down familial and cultural information among generations of tribal members." As contact between Indians and non-Indians grew, so did the necessity of learning of new languages." Even into the 20th century, many American Indians and Alaska Natives were bi- or multilingual as a result of learning to speak their own language as well as English, French, Russian, or Spanish, or even another tribal language."

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  • November 9, 2015

    Historically, American Indians have the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups." The reasons are deeply rooted in traditional cultural values that drive them to serve their country." These include a proud warrior tradition, best exemplified by the following qualities said to be inherent to most, if not all, Native American societies: strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom." These qualities closely correlate with military tradition."

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  • November 10, 2015

    "Every year, our Nation pauses to reflect on the profound ways the First Americans have shaped our country's character and culture." The first stewards of our environment, early voices for the values that define our Nation, and models of government to our Founding Fathers—American Indians and Alaska Natives helped build the very fabric of America." Today, their spirit and many contributions continue to enrich our communities and strengthen our country." " —President Barack Obama

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  • November 11, 2015

    In the Korean Conflict, one Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to an American Indian serviceman." In the Vietnam War, 41,500 Indian personnel served." In 1990, prior to Operation Desert Storm, some 24,000 Indian men and women were in the military." Approximately 3,000 served in the Persian Gulf with three among those killed in action." American Indian service personnel have also served in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom)."

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  • November 12, 2015

    Starting in World War I and again in World War II, the U.S." military employed a number of American Indian servicemen to use their tribal languages as a military code that could not be broken by the enemy." These “code talkers” came from many different tribes, including Chippewa, Choctaw, Creek, Crow, Comanche, Hopi, Navajo, Seminole, and Sioux." During World War II, the Navajos constituted the largest component within that elite group."

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  • November 13, 2015

    "A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States, with the responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations attached to that designation, and is eligible for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

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  • November 14, 2015

    Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation, became the first member of a federally recognized Indian tribe to serve at the U.S." Ambassador level when he was confirmed as United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014." In his career as an attorney, he has focused on issues involving injustice against Native peoples."

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  • November 15, 2015

    More than 44,000 American Indians, out of a total population of less than 350,000, served in the military with distinction between 1941 and 1945 in both European and Pacific theaters of war." Native American men and women on the home front also showed an intense desire to serve their country, and they were an integral part of the war effort." Over 40,000 Indian people left their reservations to work in ordnance depots, factories, and other war industries."

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  • November 16, 2015

    Ohiyesa, also known as Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, was born in 1858 on a Santee Sioux reservation in Minnesota. He graduated from Dartmouth College, and then from medical school. He worked as a doctor for the Indian Health Service on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he treated those injured in the U.S. Army attack on Lakota Chief Big Foot's band at Wounded Knee. In 1910, he helped establish the Boy Scouts of America.

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  • November 17, 2015

    As Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Roosevelt, John Collier crusaded to prevent the absorption of the Native American culture into mainstream American society, and questioned the wisdom of such decisions." During his time in office, Collier reformed Indian religious freedom, public relief and conservation programs, as well as protection and retention of tribal land."

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  • November 18, 2015

    The Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934, also known as the Indian Reorganization Act, was established to alter the U.S." policy that encouraged American Indian assimilation." The law changed the land allotment system, permitted tribes to establish governments with limited powers, and allowed the creation of corporations to manage tribal resources."

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  • November 19, 2015

    A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex." The NMAI cares for one of the world's most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego."

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  • November 20, 2015

    On November 20, 2013, American Indian code talkers from 566 tribes were honored with Congressional Silver Medals, and leaders from the tribes’ 33 nations received Congressional Gold Medals." These medals recognized the contributions of the code talkers during World War I and World War II, when they used their native languages to encode secret or sensitive information so that the enemy could not decipher radio transmissions."

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  • November 21, 2015

    During World War I more than 8,000 American Indian soldiers, of whom 6,000 were volunteers, served." Their patriotism moved Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924." In World War II, 25,000 American Indian and Alaska Native men and women fought on all fronts in Europe and the South Pacific earning, collectively, at least 71 Air Medals, 51 Silver Stars, 47 Bronze Stars, 34 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Congressional Medals of Honor." Alaska Natives also served in the Alaska Territorial Guard."

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  • November 22, 2015

    During the Civil War, American Indians served on both sides of the conflict." Among the most well-known are Brigadier General Ely S." Parker (Seneca), an aide to Union General Ulysses S." Grant who recorded the terms of Confederate General Robert E." Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia that ended the war, and Brigadier General Stand Watie (Cherokee), the last of the Confederate generals to cease fighting after the surrender was concluded." American Indians also fought with Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War."

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  • November 23, 2015

    At the 1964 Olympics, Sioux Indian Billy Mills set a world record for and won the gold medal in the 10k race event, and still remains the only American to win gold in the event." Following this accomplishment, Mills played a keystone part in the foundation of Running Strong for American Indian Youth – an organization dedicated to helping Native American youth lead healthy lifestyles and take pride in their heritage."

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  • November 24, 2015

    After graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1889 at the top of her class, Susan La Flesche Picotte became the first Native American woman to become a physician." In the years following her graduation she served as the medical missionary of the Omaha tribe and greatly improved health care conditions."

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  • November 25, 2015

    Wilma Mankiller was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and in 1945, she became the first female to be elected the Principal Chief of her nation." She won two elections the second with 83% of the vote and played a major part in the Cherokee Nation’s success, growth, and prosperity during her tenure." President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998."

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  • November 26, 2015

    Alaska has about 20 distinct languages divided between two main language groups: Eskimo-Aleut and Athabasan-Eyak-Tlingit." Since its creation by the Alaska Legislature in 1972, the Alaska Native Language Center has researched and documented Alaska’s Native languages."

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  • November 27, 2015

    Tom Oxendine, a Lumbee Indian, became the first American Indian to graduate from the U.S." Naval Academy in 1942, and later received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue of a fellow pilot who was drowning." He served the United States in both the Korean and Vietnam War."

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  • November 28, 2015

    Did you know that the Iroquois League of Nations government was a model for the development of the U.S." government? Benjamin Franklin said that the idea of a federal government, in which certain powers are given to a central government and all other powers are reserved for the states, was adapted from the system of government used by the Iroquois League of Nations."

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  • November 29, 2015

    Mary G." Ross was the first female engineer at Lockheed’s Missiles Systems Division (1952) and the first known Native American woman to be an engineer." At Lockheed, Ross designed missiles and rockets, and developed systems for human space flight and interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus." After retiring, she began a second career as an advocate for women and Native Americans in engineering and mathematics."

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  • November 30, 2015

    "As the first people to live on the land we all cherish, American Indians and Alaska Natives have profoundly shaped our country's character and our cultural heritage." Today, American Indians are leaders in every aspect of our society—from the boardroom to the battlefield, to the classroom."

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