The events leading up to the declaration of Native American Heritage Month began in the early 20th century. That's when the American Indian Association declared the second Saturday day in May as American Indian Day in 1915.
No formal national recognition of the day was forthcoming -- so that same year a Blackfoot Indian, Red Fox James, rode to the White House on horseback to present the endorsements from 24 state governments -- but again, without success.
In 1915, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode
on horseback from state to state, seeking support
for designation of a day to honor American Indians.
The following year, the governor of New York finally recognized the importance of such a day and declared American Indian Day as the second Saturday in May in 1916. Several states followed, but no national recognition of the contributions of native Americans would be decided upon until decades later.
It was only in 1990 when President
George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution that designated the entire month of November as "Native American Heritage
Month". It was a landmark bill honoring America’s tribal people and gave Native Americans a national platform on which to express their pride as the First Americans.
Today, Native American Heritage Month is observed with local, regional and state ceremonies, as well as dance performances, food tastings and other cultural events. That includes special exhibitions that celebrate the rich history and culture of American Indians at the National Museum of the American Indian in both New York and Washington.
A rich photographic record of Native Americans also endures today in such works by photographers as Edward S. Curtis and Hermann Heyn that vividly portray the pride and humanity of Native Americans of the Old West.
Native American Heritage Month portrait gallery
Nez Percé man, 1900's
Crow scout, 1908
Hopi mother, 1922
Above, the legacy of American photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868 - 1952) endures today
as a rich pictorial record of the pride and humanity of Native Americans of the Old West.
Over a ten year period (1890-1900), the Heyn photography studio in Omaha, Nebraska,
took studio portraits of local Dakota Sioux that are now preserved in the Library of Congress.
More about Native American Heritage Month around the Web:
Just up ahead, find out
more about the observance at online exhibits and presentations,
together with teaching resources, coloring pages, activities
and information about how native Americans celebrated with the early Pilgrims
on the first historic Thanksgiving