President Obama has proclaimed November as "Native American Heritage Month." This is a time to celebrate the many significant historic and contemporary contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, a population of 5.4 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the juvenile justice field, this month is not only a time to celebrate Native American heritage, but also an opportunity to make visible the unique youth justice challenges faced by Native American communities, and to highlight steps for collaboratively working with tribal communities to improve conditions for Native American youth and their families.
Though 1990 was the first year "Native American Indian Heritage Month" was recognized as a national legal holiday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the pursuit of a holiday to celebrate heritage began in the early 20th century when Dr. Arthur C. Parker - a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, New York - promoted a day to celebrate "First Americans." In May 1916, the first "American Indian Day" was declared by the state of New York, and many states observed a version of this day for years before official national recognition in 1990 for the month of November.