WASHINGTON, D.C. - November 22, 2017 - On November 24, 2017, America will celebrate Native American Heritage Day. The Day was established by Congress in 2008, to honor Native Americans' political, economic, and cultural contributions to the development of the United States of America. The President proclaimed November 2017 as "National Native American Heritage Month" and called upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities to celebrate Native American Heritage Day.
The President continued: "My administration is committed to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. A great Nation keeps its word, and this Administration will continue to uphold and defend its responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The United States is stronger when Indian Country is healthy and prosperous." We agree that America is stronger when Indian Country is successful.
Native Americans have a proud heritage of perseverance and achievement. Before Columbus landed in the Caribbean, our Indian nations made outstanding artistic, scientific, cultural and political achievements. The Founding Fathers of the United States came to the six nations confederacy in New York to learn about their unique system of federalism, which divided power among branches of government and provided checks and balances. The Founders used those lessons in framing the Constitution of the United States of America.
Over 500 years ago, Native Americans were already cultivating over 60 percent of the food varieties grown in the world today. Indians were also using native plants for medicinal purposes, which of course came to be relied upon by pilgrims and settlers and continue to be studied and explored by pharmaceutical companies. This shared knowledge will perhaps be a key to curing the most debilitating diseases of today. Beyond food and medicine, Native Americans' resources of gold, silver, and timber contributed to the growth of the American continent and transformed European societies.
Our Tribal Nations survived adversities that many will never know. We were forcibly removed from our homelands and assimilated into a new way of life. When Tribes resisted, they were targeted for extermination and faced genocide through war, disease, and other early forms of destruction. But we did not retreat, we survived and adapted to the ever-changing world around us. Today, we stand proud and united as the true First Peoples of this country. Native American Heritage Day and this holiday season is a time for us to remember this truth and let us never forget where we are headed.
Native American Heritage Day is not just a celebration of past accomplishments. It is a celebration of Indian Country's continued existence and success. It is an honoring of the sacrifices our forefathers made that are enshrined in our Treaties and the U.S. Constitution.
"Indian Country continues to rise and the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) is committed to advancing the lives of Indian peoples economically, socially and politically. We continue the legacy of our forefathers that laid the foundation for this great country. That philosophy is our bedrock of knowledge and as Native Americans and it is a concept that has long been imprinted into our memories from generation to generation. There is more to this world than our own self-interests. This holiday season let us share with the less fortunate and return to some basic human values: looking out for family, community and anyone in need," Ernie Stevens, Jr., NIGA Chairman.
We must always remember that we are the dream of our grandfathers and grandmothers.