Native American Heritage Day Date in the current year: November 29, 2024

Native American Heritage Day Native American Heritage Day is an American observance held annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. It was created to highlight the contributions of Native Americans and celebrate their rich cultural heritage.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays in the United States. Its roots can be traced back to the feast that the first Pilgrims shared with Wampanoag Native Americans in October 1621 to celebrate their first harvest in the New World and thank Native Americans for their help that had allowed them to survive their first winter at the Plymouth Plantation.

What the traditional Thanksgiving Day story does not acknowledge is the subsequent oppression and genocide of indigenous peoples by American colonists. European colonization of the Americas and the policy of settler colonialism carried out by the newly independent United States resulted in a shocking decline in indigenous population due to enslavement, ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation, new diseases, and wars.

Native Americans were removed from their ancestral lands by force or as a result of one-sided treaties, as well as subjected to discriminatory policies and forced assimilation well into the 20th century. Positive changes have been happening since the 1960s, largely thanks to Native American activists, but Native Americans in the United States still face a lot of issues such as cultural appropriation, discrimination, racism, and public health issues stemming from intergenerational trauma.

Taking into account the centuries of oppression and discrimination, it is not surprising that many Native Americans do not celebrate Thanksgiving. They prefer to organize alternative events, such as Unthanksgiving Day and the National Day of Mourning, to educate the general public about the centuries of suffering Native Americans have been subjected to because of colonialism and to dispel myths surrounding the traditional Thanksgiving story.

Native American Heritage Day was created in an attempt to counterbalance Thanksgiving Day, restore justice, and give Native Americans the credit they deserve. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by more than 180 federally recognized tribes and the National Indian Gaming Association. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. The main goal of the observance is to celebrate Native American heritage appropriately and educate people of all backgrounds about the history, achievements, and contributions of Native Americans.

Some Indigenous Americans celebrate Native American Heritage Day with various cultural and educational events and activities, while others consider it inappropriate because the observance coincides with Black Friday. According to Native American activist and journalist Simon Moya-Smith, Black Friday is the wrong day to honor Native Americans because it is the day of aggressive capitalism, gluttony, greed, and excess.

Native American Heritage Day should not be confused with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, observed on the second Monday of October. The latter was conceived as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day.

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Native American Heritage Day, cultural observances, observances in the United States, Native Americans