Celebrate American Indian Heritage

November 20, 2014

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush proclaimed November as “National American Indian Heritage Month,” as requested in Public Law 101-343. Since then, proclamations and legislation have been passed to recognize the history and culture of Native American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes during the month of November. You can read many of the past proclamations and legislation on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys).

For example:

There are many documents related to designation of November as a celebration of Native American heritage. In addition, many documents about the celebration are available in Federal depository libraries located nationwide or online through GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.


The effort to recognize and celebrate American Indian Heritage at a national level began a century ago. Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, director of the Rochester Museum in New York and founder of American Indian rights organizations, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to commemorate a day for “First Americans” in 1912.

Image courtesy of nps.gov

Image courtesy of nps.gov

Several declarations by American Indian Groups have designated a day in May as well as September for commemorating Native Americans. Additional historical information is available on the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs Web Site. The site also provides a list of Congressional Resolutions and Presidential Proclamations. Many of those are available through FDsys, or in the collections at Federal depository libraries. The Library of Congress also has a Web site with information about Native American Heritage Month.

Federal Observance of an official day or week to celebrate Native culture began in 1976 with a Congressional Resolution authorizing President Ford to declare on October 8, “Native American Awareness Week.” Every year thereafter, a proclamation has been made to celebrate a day or month in honor of American Indians. According to a Library of Congress information page about the history, it began in 1986 with Public Law 99-471 and President Reagan’s Proclamation 5577 declaring November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.” In 1992, Public Law 102-188 declared the entire year of 1992 as “Year of the American Indian.”

President Obama made the 2014 proclamation on October 31. You can check the White House Web Site for other Presidential Proclamations. Historical proclamations are included in publications such as the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States and the U.S. Statutes at Large. These can also be accessed in Federal depository libraries nationwide.

Native American Day – October

Many States in the U.S. also celebrate a Native American Day.

Recently the California State Legislature proclaimed the Fourth Friday in September as Native American Day. American Indian Day has been celebrated in Tennessee since 1994.

native american image 1

Image courtesy of nps.gov

In South Dakota, the second Monday in October is celebrated as Native American Day, rather than Columbus Day. Codified State Law 1-5-1.2 states that “Native Americans’ Day is dedicated to the remembrance of the great Native American leaders who contributed so much history” to the state of South Dakota.

Other annual events occur throughout the year, such as the annual Native American Heritage Days held in Grand Canyon National Park. The twenty-first annual event was held this year from August 7-8, 2014

Educational Resources

Whether celebrating a day, month or year, you can take any opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of North America.

The National Library of Medicine recently created the exhibition Native Voices: Native People’s Concepts of Health & Illness. Visitors can see the exhibit in the rotunda gallery of the National Library of Medicine, or visit the traveling exhibition. The Exhibition opened in Honolulu Hawaii on July 18th, and is currently in Sulphur, Oklahoma until October 24, 2014. For those unable to visit in person, the Web site includes videos, timelines, and resources about the exhibition and content.

Image courtesy of The University of Iowa (Digital Library)

Image courtesy of The University of Iowa (Digital Library)

The National Archives contains a wealth of records relating to American Indians from about 1774 through the 1990s. Their Web site provides a helpful research guide for accessing these collections. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has created an informative guide on Native American Heritage through the Indian Housing’s Office of Native American Programs (ONAP). The U.S. Department of Defense also has a detailed Web guide created for the 2001 American Indian Heritage Month.

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is a valuable educational resource visitors to Washington, D.C. can explore. Those unable to visit in person can explore some of the collections online.

There are also several books and series published by Federal agencies and available from the Government Printing Office bookstore to learn more about Native cultures, history, and recent events:

  • Handbook for North American Indians series047-000-00415-2This series, produced by the Smithsonian Institution is an extensive reference set providing an encyclopedic summary of the prehistory, history, and cultures of the aboriginal peoples of North America.
  • The Eagle Book serieseagle book series imageThis is an award winning series developed through collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention Native Diabetes Wellness Program, the Indian Health Service Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention, and the Tribal Leaders Diabetes committee. What began as the book “Through the Eyes of the Eagle” is now a full series written for elementary and middle school children and includes a guide for educators and communities.
  • Nursery Manual for Native Plants: A Guide for Tribal Nurseriesnursery manual for native plantsAgricultural Handbook 730, produced by the Forest Service, is a coordinated effort with the Virtual Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources and representatives from tribes across the United States to create a manual with special attention to the uniqueness of Native American Cultures. There is also access to the full PDF online.
  • The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to ChildhoodThe Children's Bureau LegacyHistory of the bureau from 1912-2012 is detailed here, including information about Indian Boarding Schools and the Indian Adoption Program.
  • Iroquois Warriors in Iraq – This publication analyzes the role of the Iroquois’ Warriors of the UW Army Reserve’s 90th Division, which was deployed to Iraq in 2004.


In addition to clicking on the links in the article above to find the publications, you may find these publications from the following:

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy these and other print publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore Web site at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for these in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author: Cathy Wagner is an Outreach Librarian with the Outreach & Support team in the Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) unit at the Government Printing Office.

Native Traditions Help Kids Unplug, Read and Be Healthy

March 1, 2013

Kids Take NEA Reader's Oath on National Read Across America DayToday, March 1, 2013, is the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day which kicks off Read Across America Week where people are encouraged to read to children and children are encouraged to read for themselves. And tomorrow is the birthday of Dr Seuss, who is known for writing children’s books. Coincidentally, from sunset tonight March 1 to sunset March 2 has also been declared National Day of Unplugging, when we are urged to unplug ourselves from all our gadgets and technology such as smartphones, laptops, and MP3 players.

Image: School children take NEA’s Read Across America Reader’s Oath. Source: NEA

Thus, it’s a perfect time to read to and with your kids. Reading events, both public and private, are being held nationwide, from schools and public libraries to houses of worship and homes as adults and children unplug and read.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Native Diabetes Wellness Program (Wellness Program), in collaboration with the Indian Health Service (IHS) Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention and the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee (TLDC), created the perfect series of children’s books to help encourage kids to read and live a healthy lifestyle.

CDC-Eagle-Book-Series for child diabetes prevention nutrition and physical fitnessCalled the Eagle Book Series. all of the stories reflect long-held traditional values of American Indian / Alaska Native people – respect, gratitude, and generosity – while teaching the universal wisdom of healthy eating and physical activity. Throughout the series, a young Native boy and his friends learn about healthy habits from Mr. Eagle, Miss Rabbit, and Coyote.

Vividly brought to life by the colorful illustrations of talented American Indian artists Patrick Rolo (Bad River Band of Ojibwe, Wisconsin) and Lisa A. Fifield (Black Bear Clan of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin), these charming and educational stories by Georgia Perez have become the award-winning Eagle Book series:

  1. Through the Eyes of the Eagle,
  2. Knees Lifted High,
  3. Plate Full of Color, and
  4. Tricky Treats.

Measuring 16 X 19 inches, these books are sized perfectly for reading to a group of first through third grade children at school, daycare, in a library, or at home.

Thru-Eyes-of-the-EagleThrough the Eyes of the Eagle

“Through the Eyes of the Eagle” is the first book in the Eagle Book Series and introduces the character of Mr. Eagle. Mr. Eagle befriends Rain That Dances, the primary child character in the book, to educate him about diabetes and how the lifestyles and health of the people have changed. Mr. Eagle has come to remind the children of the healthy ways of their ancestors so that they can be strong and healthy again.

Knees-Lifted-HighKnees Lifted High

“Knees Lifted High,” the second book in the Eagle Book Series, continues the story with Mr. Eagle and Rain That Dances, and introduces a new character, Thunder Cloud, Rain That Dances’ best friend. Mr. Eagle shares the knowledge that lack of movement (inadequate physical activity) contributes to development of type 2 diabetes. He encourages the boys to find ways of being active just as their ancestors were. He elicits ideas from the boys on ways to get their bodies up and moving

Plate-Full-of-colorPlate Full of Color

“Plate Full of Color,” the third book in the Eagle Book Series, introduces Miss Rabbit and the boys’ friend, Little Hummingbird. Miss Rabbit s a helper. She wants to teach the young children about ways they can prevent diabetes and help adults learn about preventing and controlling the disease. Rain That Dances, Thunder Cloud and Little Hummingbird listen to Miss Rabbit explain how Mother Earth provides wonderfully healthy things to eat.

Tricky-TreatsTricky Treats

“Tricky Treats,” the fourth book in the Eagle Book Series, continues the theme of healthy food by encouraging children to choose nutritional value in foods and beverages. This story introduces the character of Coyote who initially challenges the healthy messages offered by Mr. Eagle.

Tricksters, such as the coyote, are traditional characters in American Indian stories and literature who cannot be trusted because of their jokes and tricks. The trickster often comes around in the end as in this story. In the book, Mr. Eagle encourages the children to choose healthy snacks and not be tricked into using foods and beverages that are not healthy for them. Healthy foods are identified as “everyday foods,” while less optimal choices are described as “sometimes foods.” Mr. Eagle teaches the children about food safety and the importance of not taking things that belong to someone else.

NEA has a Read Across America Reader’s Oath by Debra Angstead, Missouri-NEA, a Read Across America song and this wonderful Dr. Seuss-inspired Read Across America poem that says it better than we can:

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild,
To pick up a book and read with a child.
You’re never too busy, too cool, or too hot,
To pick up a book and share what you’ve got.

In schools and communities,
Let’s gather around,
Let’s pick up a book,
Let’s pass it around.

There are kids all around you,
Kids who will need
Someone to hug,
Someone to read.

Come join us March 1st
Your own special way
And make this America’s
Read to Kids Day.

How can I buy the Eagle Book Series?

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.

%d bloggers like this: