Eleven years ago, President Barack Obama signed a resolution designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” The resolution had unanimous support in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. The resolution capped the bill President George W. Bush signed into law introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.) to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.
President Obama stated, “I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day … It is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition, and history of Native Americans and their status today, and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made and will continue to make to our Nation.”
Issues with Native American Heritage Day
However, the holiday was only formally supported by 184 out of 567 federally recognized tribes. Some tribal leaders did not want the holiday occurring on the same day as the notoriously commercial Black Friday.
The purpose of the holiday is to honor the heritage, culture of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian peoples. Over 5 million native Americans are living in 37 states. Only two states have formally recognized the holiday; Maryland and Washington.