Commonfund, in conjunction with our Native American Heritage Month subcommittee, has created a resource guide to help all of us celebrate the contributions of Native Americans and Indigenous people in all aspects of American Life. This resource guide is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, the hope is that you will take advantage of a few of these resources to begin your exploration of this very important part of American history; your history, our history.
For starters, what is the correct terminology? American Indian, Indian, Native American, Indigenous, or Native? All of these terms are acceptable. The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or Indigenous American are preferred by many Native people. Native peoples often have individual preferences on how they would like to be addressed. When talking about Native groups or people, use the terminology the members of the community use to describe themselves collectively.
Native American Heritage Month started off as an effort to get a day of appreciation and acknowledgment for the unique contributions made by the first Americans for the growth and establishment of the United States. The effort has now resulted in a whole month being celebrated for that purpose.
Dr. Arthur C. Parker was one of the first supporters of having an American Indian Day. He was a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. He was also the one to convince the Boy Scouts of America to create a day for the Native Americans — the Boy Scouts adopted this day for three days.
In 1915, a plan concerning American Indian Day was formally approved in the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting. The president of the American Indian Association, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, called upon the country to observe this day.
The first American Indian Day was declared in May 1916. In 1990, a joint resolution was approved by George H.W. Bush, which called for November to be named National Native American Heritage Month. Declarations like these have been issued since 1994, such as Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.