November is Native American/Alaska Native Heritage Month. It is a time to recognize the diverse cultures of Native peoples across our country _ but the road to both equity and this month of recognition has been a long one, and the fight for equity continues still.

In the early 1900s, one of the very first proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who later became the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. In 1914, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode on horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. His efforts ultimately resulted in endorsements from 24 state governments which he presented to the White House (although there is no record of such a national day ever being proclaimed). Finally, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed legislation making the month of November, National American Indian Heritage Month.

We cannot recognize this Month, however, without also acknowledging the history and treatment of Native Americans since the inception of our country. Beginning with the American Revolution, and through much of the 1800’s, violence was the method used to force tribes off lands that had been theirs for generations, and onto Reservations.

And, it wasn’t until the Snyder Act of 1924 that Native Americans born in the U.S. were granted full U.S. citizenship, and thus the right to vote.

Today, there are 574 federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native tribes across the United States. Each has their own distinctive history, beliefs, governance structure and culture – and each makes its own unique contribution to our larger society. In Western New York, these tribes include the Seneca Nation of New York and the Tonawanda Band of Seneca.

Please join the YWCA of Genesee County in honoring the history of our Native American neighbors and the work that they are continuing to do to achieve equity for their tribal communities.

Linda Rost

(Linda Rost is the Treasurer of the YWCA of Genesee County Board of Directors and serves as the Chair of the Finance Committee. This letter is submitted on behalf of the Board.)

Johnson Newspapers 7.1