Senate Honors Native American Heritage Month
Resolution Recognizes the Cultures and Contributions of the Tribal Nations of this Country
“The contributions that American Indians have made to the foundation of the United States are significant and continue today,” said Cantwell. “From influencing the documents that founded our Nation to serving in World War II as code talkers, American Indians have helped shape the face of our Nation.”
Chairwoman Cantwell was joined in introducing Senate Resolution 305 by 24 bi-partisan colleagues, including Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mark Begich (D-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Harry Reid (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The full text of Senator Cantwell’s floor statement follows:
Each November, the President declares this month as National Native American Heritage Month and the Senate dedicates a resolution honoring the Nation’s first Americans. As Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, it is my privilege to introduce this resolution. I am pleased to be joined by so many of my colleagues, including Senators Baldwin, Barrasso, Begich, Cochran, Crapo, Franken, Gillibrand, Heinrich, Heitkamp, Hirono, Hoeven, Johnson of South Dakota, Klobuchar, Markey, Merkley, Moran, Reid, Schatz, Tester, Thune, Udall of Colorado, Udall of New Mexico, Warner, and Wyden, in introducing this resolution.
Since time immemorial, American Indians have occupied the lands we now know as the United States. To date, the federal government recognizes 566 distinct tribal nations across the country. While these Indian tribes share many attributes, each tribe is unique. The contributions that American Indians have made to the foundation of the United States are significant and continue today. From influencing the documents that founded our Nation to serving in World War II as code talkers, American Indians have helped shape the face of our Nation. It is fitting that we are honoring the Code Talkers this week with a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, as Native Americans have served in the military at a higher rate per capita than any other group in the country.
Native American heroes played a significant role in World War II. Among them was Charles Chibitty of the Comanche Nation, who aided the successful landing at Normandy and the capture of an enemy flag in a French village, for which he was recognized by the French government. The Code Talkers came from many tribes, including the Navajo, who played a crucial role in the Pacific. The Choctaw, Sioux, Assiniboine, Apache, Hopi, Mohawk and many other tribes gave this Nation their dedication, determination and courage. They will never be forgotten.
I am honored to represent the 29 tribes in my home state of Washington. Tribal culture is woven into the fabric of our State, as a critical part of not only the State’s history, but also its modern-day economy and governance. In 2012, Washington State tribes purchased more than $2.4 billion in goods, paid $1.3 billion in wages, and spent $259 million on construction activities. The Tribes and the State are partners in virtually every aspect of governance, from natural resource management to tax collection.
Many of the tribes in my State entered into agreements with the United States government over the last two and a half centuries for cessions of land and natural resources. In exchange for these lands, the United States promised essential services to American Indians. As the Trustee for Indian nations across the United States, the federal government has much work to do. I am encouraged by events like the Tribal Nations Conference, which has been convened annually since the election of President Obama. While this is a step in the right direction, we must do more to ensure that our Indian communities are thriving.
As we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, I encourage my colleagues to take some time and think about the federal government’s responsibilities to our first people. I ask my colleagues to support this resolution designating November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month and November 29 of this year as Native American Heritage Day, and I encourage all Americans to recognize the important contributions American Indians have made to this great Nation.
The full text of Senate Resolution 305 follows:
Whereas from November 1, 2013, through November 30, 2013, the United States celebrates National Native American Heritage Month;
Whereas Native Americans are descendants of the original, indigenous inhabitants of what is now the United States;
Whereas the United States Bureau of the Census estimated in 2010 that there were more than 5,000,000 individuals in the United States of Native American descent;
Whereas Native Americans maintain vibrant cultures and traditions and hold a deeply rooted sense of community;
Whereas Native Americans have moving stories of tragedy, triumph, and perseverance that need to be shared with future generations;
Whereas Native Americans speak and preserve indigenous languages, which have contributed to the English language by being used as names of individuals and locations throughout the United States;
Whereas Congress has consistently reaffirmed its support of tribal self-governance and its commitment to improving the lives of all Native Americans by enhancing health care and law enforcement resources, improving the housing and socioeconomic status of Native Americans, and approving settlements of litigation involving Indian tribes and the United States;
Whereas the United States is committed to strengthening the government-to-government relationship that it has maintained with the various Indian tribes;
Whereas Congress has recognized the contributions of the Iroquois Confederacy, and its influence on the Founding Fathers in the drafting of the Constitution of the United States with the concepts of freedom of speech, the separation of governmental powers, and the system of checks and balances between the branches of government;
Whereas with the enactment of the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-33; 123 Stat. 1922), Congress--
(1) reaffirmed the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Native American governments; and
(2) recognized the important contributions of Native Americans to the culture of the United States;
Whereas Native Americans have made distinct and important contributions to the United States and the rest of the world in many fields, including the fields of agriculture, medicine, music, language, and art, and Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars;
Whereas Native Americans have served with honor and distinction in the Armed Forces of the United States, and continue to serve in the Armed Forces in greater numbers per capita than any other group in the United States;
Whereas the United States has recognized the contribution of the Native American code talkers in World War I and World War II, who used indigenous languages as an unbreakable military code, saving countless Americans; and
Whereas the people of the United States have reason to honor the great achievements and contributions of Native Americans and their ancestors: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) recognizes the month of November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month;
(2) recognizes the Friday after Thanksgiving as `Native American Heritage Day' in accordance with the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-33; 123 Stat. 1922); and
(3) urges the people of the United States to observe National Native American Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Day with appropriate programs and activities.