Written by Elise Theriault
The fourth Friday of every September is a special day. It marks California Native American Day, and today we celebrate and honor the rich history, cultural heritage, and the cultural contributions of Native American communities to all. Other states celebrate this day on different days of the year, but California chose the fourth Friday in September. California was the first state to recognize and celebrate Native American Day in 1939, and and in 1968, Governor Ronald Regan signed the official resolution that established it forever onward in our calendars.
Before European settlers came to North America, Native American people and tribes inhabited the entire continent. From coast to coast, and from the gulf to the high northern latitudes of modern day Canada, this was their land. Their tribes, communities and culture were well established, but unfortunately with the arrival of European settlers came a time of tragedies in the shape of illness, disease, violence and persecution. Throughout U.S. history, Native Americans have played an incredible role (and still continue to) in the shaping of our nation’s history. It is only righteous to set aside a full day to honor them, their culture, and reflect on how we can flip the history tables and cherish their culture today and always.
Today, the ancestors of those original tribes and communities live on, many integrating into modern culture. Despite the centuries, persecution, and the modernization, many tribes still exist and actively connect with their cultural heritage. This can look like anything from interest in ancestral research to taking up many of the crafts that identified their people. Basket weaving, drumming, beading, and traditional dancing are still taught and practiced in tribes as a way to keep these traditions alive and connect with their community in the modern age.
There are many ways to observe and celebrate Native American Day. These are just a few to note. Even though this holiday is confined to one day, you can celebrate anytime! Make this week a week to reflect and learn about these incredible people and their history.
1. Learn about local tribes – Run an internet search about the local tribes that are still existing in your area today and learn about their history and current events. See if you can support your local tribes in any way.
2. Explore a museum – There are many state and local museums that house a curation of Native American artifacts. These are priceless and unique to view. Pay respects to the hands that made them and the stories they tell.
3. Participate in a local event – Often there are local events to celebrate Native American Day. Use californianativeamericanday.com as resource to come back to year after year to learn how people are gathering to celebrate.
Today, 9/23/2022, at the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento CA, many gathered on the West Steps to honor Native Americans with a “Stand Strong Together” agenda. They opened in prayer, shared in cultural music and dance, heard speakers from local tribes, and partook in a California Tribal Nation’s Flag Ceremonial.
Today at NVIH, we closed our doors in observance of this holiday, as we do every year. It is a chance for us to refocus our thoughts on why we do what we do in providing excellence in healthcare to Native Americans and all community members. It strengthens our mission and aligns us with our goals to provide for our incredible local Native American community.
Happy Native American Day!