American Indian holiday proposed

David Melmer
6/27/01

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent a resolution to recognize American Indian day as a holiday.

Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., introduced the measure, the first step in designing the special holiday. The resolution asks schools to recognize contributions American Indians have made in the history, culture and education of the country.

"This is why I'm proud to be a member of the congressional Native American caucus. Native Americans have shown their willingness to fight and die for this nation in foreign lands. They honor the American flag at every pow wow and at many gatherings and remember all veterans through song, music, and dance. This is about proud Americans who have given so much to this country," Baca said.

Not only is an American Indian day holiday proposed, but Congress also sent a message to the schools that history of the American Indians must be taught and that what is taught should precede the first contact with the Europeans.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth, R, Ariz., said, "If we are what we learn, if what is passed is prologue, then this is a laudable goal and something this House of Representatives should heartily endorse and pass overwhelmingly because the First Americans should not be forgotten.

"Their legacy of honor, not only in armed conflict, but in so many different endeavors of human experience cannot be treated as some sort of novel concept, something that need be shuttled off on the shelf, to be thought of almost as trivia. It is central to our American experience," Hayworth said.

The resolution does not offer any leads as how schools will accomplish a more American Indian-friendly curriculum, it merely stated they should.

"That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the Nation's schools should honor Native Americans for their contributions to American history, culture and education," the resolution stated.

Baca said the resolution was a step toward seeking an American Indian holiday. It will be similar to legislation he introduced in California.

"We need to educate and sensitize our nation to all that Native Americans have done for this nation. We need to take up the cause of Native American sovereignty," Baca said.

"This resolution is about justice. It is about schools respecting Native Americans; and it is very important when we say respecting in schools. When a child goes to school, he or she wants to make sure that they are honored and respected with dignity," Baca said.

The resolution speaks to contributions to the United States by tribal members and Indian country in general. A great emphasis was on the patriotism shown by American Indians at pow wows and other gatherings where the American flag is honored in song and presence. The resolution calls attention to contributions American Indians made in the armed forces by volunteering and serving at higher percentages when compared to other ethnic groups.

It also recognized the feeling American Indians have toward the earth and the environment. Those traits and the history of the nations will be part of the education in the schools across the country, as put forward by the resolution.

"As a teacher of American history, it is important that our schools embrace our collective history, including our nation's history before the Mayflower landed. Throughout our nation's history, Native Americans have demonstrated selflessness and heroism that is sadly reflected too little in our history books," said Rep. Betty McCollum, D, Minn.

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