By Dr. Annette Peartree-Mandley, 439th Airlift Wing
/ Published November 21, 2017
The observance of National American Indian Heritage Month throughout November has its roots in Public Law 99-471.
In 1976, Congress designated a week in October to celebrate Native American Awareness Week. The week served as recognition for the great influence American Indians have had upon the U.S. Over several years, the observation was moved to different months and yearly legislation was enacted to continue the tradition until August of 1990, when President Bush approved the designation of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. The observance month recognizes American Indians for their respect for natural resources and the Earth, having served with valor in our nation's conflicts and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States.
President Bill Clinton noted in 1996, "Throughout our history, American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have been an integral part of the American character. Against all odds, America's first peoples have endured, and they remain a vital cultural, political, social, and moral presence." November is an appropriate month for the recognition and celebration because it is traditionally a time when many American Indians hold fall harvest and world-renewal ceremonies, powwows, dances, and various feasts.
The holiday recognizes hundreds of different tribes and approximately 250 languages, and celebrates the history, tradition, and values of American Indians. National American Indian Heritage Month also serves as a reminder of the positive effect native peoples have had on the cultural development and growth of the U.S., as well as the struggles and challenges they have faced. The theme for 2017 National American Indian Heritage month, as provided by the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) is “Standing Together.” The warrior spirit is strong in American Indian and Alaska Native cultures.
Legend reflects that a warrior never dies but arises in a vision as a spirit or ghost warrior to guide, protect, and lead subsequent generations. Deliberately embedded in the mountain, are past and present members who continue on this path of protecting our freedom and way of life.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Peartree-Mandley is Westover’s Special Emphasis Program Manager and Violence Prevention Integrator (VPI). In recognition of National American Indian Heritage Month, several displays are set up at Westover, including the center hallway in wing headquarters. Facts of interest will be posted via internet and SharePoint.