Is There a Day Dedicated to Native Americans?

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed for 70 days before getting his first look at the Americas on 12 October 1492. While he never actually set foot on what is now US soil, his adventures led to the first European settlements in the New World. More than four centuries after these voyages of exploration, Columbus Day has become a legal holiday in the United States, parts of Canada, and some cities in Italy and Spain. But there is no Columbus Day in South Dakota. Instead, the state pays tribute to the people who were here long before -- and long after -- Columbus.

Since 1990, South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day on the second Monday in October, as a way to recognize the cultural contributions of native people. South Dakota's then-Governor George S. Mickelson also declared 1990 to be a "Year of Reconciliation" between Native Americans and white Americans in an effort to address the state's painful history, such as the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre.

Celebrating native people in the Americas:

  • 12 October is celebrated in Latin American countries as Columbus Day, Discovery Day or Day of the Race. All these holidays honor the diversity of people in Latin America, and there are parades and fiestas.
  • Since 1968, Californians have celebrated American Indian Day on the fourth Friday in September.
  • In Tennessee, American Indian Day has been celebrated on 31 October since 1994.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a national day dedicated to celebrating Native Americans?

Yes, in the United States, Native American Day is a holiday observed in several states to honor and celebrate the cultures and contributions of Native Americans. The date of this observance varies by state. For example, California and Nevada celebrate it on the fourth Friday of September, while South Dakota and Wisconsin observe it on the second Monday of October. Additionally, Native American Heritage Day is recognized on the day after Thanksgiving.

What is Native American Heritage Month?

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the month of November in the United States. It is a time dedicated to recognizing the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. It also serves as a platform for raising awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced historically and in the present, and the ways in which they have worked to conquer these challenges. According to the Library of Congress, it's a month that provides a variety of opportunities to explore the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, histories, and important contributions of Native people (loc.gov).

How can individuals participate in Native American Heritage Month?

Individuals can participate in Native American Heritage Month by attending cultural events, such as powwows, art exhibits, and lectures that celebrate Native American culture. They can also educate themselves and others about the history and contributions of Native Americans, support Native American-owned businesses, read literature by Native American authors, and engage with online resources provided by institutions like the National Museum of the American Indian. Additionally, people can advocate for issues important to the Native American community.

Why is it important to have a day dedicated to Native Americans?

Having a day dedicated to Native Americans is important for acknowledging the rich heritage, culture, and contributions of Native peoples to the history and fabric of the United States. It serves as a reminder of the resilience and diversity of Native American tribes and communities. Such observances also help to educate the public, address historical injustices, and promote inclusivity and understanding. It's a step towards honoring the treaties and sovereignty of Native American nations and fostering reconciliation.

What are some misconceptions about Native American Day and Native American Heritage Month?

Some misconceptions include the belief that Native American Day or Native American Heritage Month only celebrates the past, ignoring the contemporary presence and contributions of Native peoples. Others may mistakenly view these observances as mere symbolic gestures without recognizing their potential for raising awareness and driving real change. Additionally, there is sometimes a misconception that all Native American cultures are homogeneous, when in fact there is great diversity among tribes and nations.

More Info: Rapid City Journal

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