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Natives in Charge of Their Narrative

AIHM / Los Angeles | New Mexico

The HISTORY of ‘American Indian Heritage Month’ in the City of Los Angeles and the State of New Mexico

The purpose of American Indian Heritage Month (AIHM) is to celebrate the rich culture, traditions, and historical moments in Native Indigenous history. This time also serves as an opportunity to educate people outside of Native Indigenous culture and raise awareness about the challenges that Native people have fought historically and are facing in the present. 

Efforts to recognize Native Americans and their history began with Red Fox James, Niitsitapi, Blackfoot, rode over 4,000 miles on horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Native Americans.  

~ On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. Red Fox James Born about 1884 in Blood Indian Reserve No. 148, Alberta Canada was a supporter of giving women the right to vote, because “In the early days, before the white-man came, the Indian women had equal voice in the council, and even was elected chieftain…”~ In 1916, New York Governor declared an “American Indian Day.” Throughout the years following, many other states and local jurisdictions began to follow suit. The next action taken was in 1979, when Congress passed the joint resolution suggesting that a “Native American Awareness Week” be made. Seven years later, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared November 23rd – November 30th as Native American Heritage Week. 

It wasn’t until President George H.W. Bush approved the joint resolution to designate the whole month, back in 1990. The proclamation came after several decades of Dr. Arthur C. Parker, the American Indian Association, Reverend Sherman Coolidge and Red Fox James advocating and persisting the importance of this month. This landmark proclamation honoring America’s tribal people was a major stepping stone in celebrating Native culture. 

~ Then in 2005, humanitarian Joanelle Romero CEO/Founder Red Nation Celebration Institute (RNCI), born of Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache, Dinétah, Paiute, and SpanishSephardic. A relative of Pawnee, Pojoaque, Southern Ute, Lakota and Haudenosaunee was so inspired by Red Fox James … that she worked hard for five straight years (2000 to 2005) with the former DCA/LA Manager Marjorie Reese to get American Indian Heritage Month (AIHM) established in The City of Los Angeles (officially recognized by the City of Los Angeles in 2005 with a proclamation). Red Nation Celebration Institute was officially recognized by the State of California in 2006 with a Resolution given to RNCI in founding American Indian Heritage Month by the State of California Gov Schwarzenegger and Lt Gov Bustamante.

~ In 2006, City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Reception was produced by Red Nation Celebration Institute. Local Tongva Spiritual Leader Jimi Castillo officially recognized Joanelle Romero as “the First Lady of American Indian Heritage Month” for all Red Nations, due to her vision in founding and establishing the American Indian Heritage Month in the City of Los Angeles in 2006, in addition because she had succeeded in unifying the interests of 19 tribes in the Los Angeles area.

~ In 2007, when environmental consciousness came more clearly into the hearts and minds of Americans, RNCI founder Joanelle Romero was already breaking new ground by dedicating the City’s second annual American Indian Heritage Month to “Honoring American Indians as our Nation’s First Environmentalists.”

~ In 2008, RNCI founder Joanelle Romero worked with the State of New Mexico with former Gov Richardson and Dept. Indian Affairs, in officially recognizing American Indian Heritage Month in the State of New Mexico, with a letter of recognition by Gov Richardson and Dept. Indian Affairs.

During American Indian Heritage Month, gives an opportunity to reflect, and reconnect to our history, our culture, and our ancestors. There are many states and cities that are now recognizing and celebrating this month. Join us each year in November in celebration of AIHM with RNCI Red Nation International Film Festival.  www.rednationff.com