National American Indian Heritage
Month — November
November — designated
as National American Indian Heritage Month by President George
Bush, in 1990 — is
a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements, heritage,
art, history, and traditions of American Indians.
How Native American Heritage
The celebration of Native American
heritage began at the turn of the century, when Dr. Arthur C.
Parker, the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester,
N.Y., and a Seneca Indian, convinced the Boy Scouts of America
to celebrate a day for the “First Americans.” For three years
the scouts honored American Indian Day.
In 1915, the annual congress of the
American Indian Association, led by its president, Rev. Sherman
Coolidge, an Arapahoe, approved an official American Indian Day
and on September 28, 1915, Rev. Coolidge issued the proclamation.
Not only did this proclamation begin a day to honor Native Americans,
it was also the first appeal for recognition of American Indians
And, in 1916, New York was the first
state to officially declare the second Saturday in May as American
Indian Day. Proclamations have been issued annually from the
White House since 1994.
Native Americans/Alaska Native Populations in the U.S. Today
According the 2000 Census, there are
281.4 million people in the United States; of these, 4.1 million
or 1.5 percent, reported themselves as American Indian/Alaska
Native. Of the 4.1 million, 2.5 million reported to be only American
Indian/Alaska Native, while 1.6 million reported being American
Indian/Alaska Native as well as one or more races. Following
is the is breakdown of the 1.6 million as reported in the 2000
- American Indian/Alaska Native and White
- American Indian/Alaska Native and Black or African American
- American Indian/Alaska Native and White, Black or African
- American Indian/Alaska Native and some other race
- All other combinations including American Indian and Alaska
Four out of every 10 American Indians,
or approximately 43 percent of the total Indian population, live
in the American West. The South is home to 31 percent of American
Indians, the Midwest 17 percent, and the Northeast nine percent.
Over half of all people who reported to be American Indian live
in just 10 states. The 10 states with the highest American Indian
population, listed in descending order, are: California, Oklahoma,
Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, North Carolina,
Michigan, and Alaska. California has an American Indian population
of 627,562 and Oklahoma has 391,949. In 21 states, American Indians
comprise less than one percent of the total population.
There are several American Indian
tribal groups whose populations consist of 100,000 or more individuals.
They are, in order of size: Cherokee, Navajo, Latin American
Indian, Choctaw, Sioux, and Chippewa. Forty percent of all Native
Americans claim to be a member of one of the six tribal groups.
Population projections show that the
American Indian/Alaska Natives population will reach 2.2 million
by 2006, and 2.4 million by 2015.