November is National Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month, institutions across the county use this time to celebrate the contributions of American Indians and encourage an interest in — and understanding of — the centrality of American Indian cultures in American History. Native American Heritage Month officially commenced in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution from Congress, following earlier week-long celebrations held during President Ronald Reagan’s administration.
However, American Indians had been advocating for a formal commemoration since the early twentieth century. Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, Cattaraugus Seneca, Director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York, convinced the Boy Scouts of America from 1912-1915 to set aside a day for “the first Americans.” In 1914, Reverend Red Fox James, Blackfeet, took a 4,000 mile horseback trek across the country to Washington D.C., advocating for the observation of a national American Indian Day.
In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association directed their President, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, Arapaho, to issue a proclamation declaring the second Saturday every May as “American Indian Day.” In 1923, Sherman Coolidge along with wife Grace, and daughters Sally and Rose moved to Colorado Springs. Reverend Coolidge was an author, scholar and served as Canon of the Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness in Denver, Colorado. The CSPM is proud to be the repository for the manuscripts and artifacts of Reverend Coolidge and his family.
Forty-nine tribes have cultural affiliations to Colorado. The Pikes Peak Region is the traditional homeland of the Ute, while many others including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache have also lived here – and more importantly — continue to do so. This November as we commemorate Native American Heritage Month, we will highlight the stories, accomplishments, history, culture, and ongoing contributions of Indigenous women and men in the Pikes Peak region.
Featured image at top of article: Dine (Navajo) Saddle Blanket, ca. 1910, Navajo Nation, Shiprock, Arizona. CSPM Collection #770