“Civilization Not Yet Perfect”

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November is Native American Heritage Month and the day after the fourth Thursday – when Thanking Day is observed in the United States – is Native American Heritage Day. The first effort to establish a Native American Day began over a century ago. In 1911, Dr. Arthur Caswell (Gawasco Waneh), a Cattaraugus Seneca, director of the Rochester Museum of New York (now the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences) was one of the earliest advocates of creating a day to honor Native Americans. He was an anthropologist, historian, and author. His great-uncle was Brigadier General Ely S. Parker, General Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary during the Civil War and the first Native American to serve as Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior.

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Dr. Parker founded several Native American rights organizations, including the Society of American Indians (SAI) in 1911 and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in 1944, and advocated for Native Americans to receive U.S. citizenship. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to honor “First Americans,” for a day which they did only from 1912 to 1915.

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In the spring of 1914, Reverend Red Fox James, also known as Red Fox Skiukusha, another Native American rights advocate, rode 4,000-miles on horseback to Washington, D.C., to petition the president for an “Indian Day.” The next year, he travelled on horseback from state to state seeking gubernatorial support for Native Americans to receive U.S. citizenship. 24 governors endorsed his petition, which he presented tot he White House on December 14, 1915.

That year, the Congress of American Indian Association met in Lawrence, Kansas and directed the president Reverend Sherman Coolidge (1862-1932), an Arapaho minister and one of the SAI founders, to call upon the nation to proclaim a day to honor Native Americans. On September 18, 1915, he issued a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as “American Indian Day” and appealing for U.S. citizenship for American Indians.

The first time that “American Indian Day” was observed may have been in 1916 when the governor of New York declared the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day. Several states celebrated American Indian Day on the fourth Friday in September, including the Illinois state legislature in 1919. That year, Red Fox Skiukusha petitioned Washington state to designate the fourth Saturday in September as an “Indian holiday.” However, these efforts were unsuccessful.

It was not until 1924 that Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, allowing Native Americans born in the United States, who were not covered by previous treaties or federal agreements to become citizens. The act was later amended to include Native Alaskans.

It would take several decades before Native American Day became more widespread. In 1968, California Governor Ronald Reagan designated the fourth Friday in September as American Indian Day, but it was not until 1998 that the California State Assembly enacted legislation making Native American Day as an official state holiday. In 1976, the country’s bicentennial year, Congress approved Senate Joint Resolution 209 authorizing President Ford to proclaim October 10-6 as “Native American Awareness Week” and he issued his presidential proclamation on October 8. Since 1976 Congress and the President have observed a day, week, or month, to honor Native American and Native Alaskans. In 2009, the Friday after Thanksgiving Day became “Native American Heritage Day.” In 1977, the holiday became inter nation when the United Nations sponsored the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas.

Proclamations celebrating Native American history and people have changed in name, number of days, dates, and length of the observance. President Ford designated May 13, 1983 as “American Indian Day” in 1983 and November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week” before moving it to November 22-28, 1987 in 1987, and finally to September 23-30 in1988. President George H. W. Bush moved the observance again, issuing a proclamation on December 5, 1989, designating December 3-9, 1989 as “National American Indian Heritage Week” before declaring November as “National American Indian Heritage Month” in 1990. Finally, President Bush declared in 1991 that November would be “American Indian Heritage Month.”

In 1992, President Bush designated 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas, as the “Year of the American Indian” and declared that November as “National American Indian Heritage Month” which it is was called until 2009, when President Obama designated November as “National Native American Heritage Month.” In 2008, Congress designated the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, as “Native American Heritage Day.”

While there is no national theme, federal departments and agencies are allowed to create their own themes. Some of the themes that the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior have used include: “Tribal Diversity: Weaving Together Our Traditions” (2006), “Tribes Facing Challenges: In Unity, Transforming Hope into Strengths” (2008), and “Life is Sacred – Celebrate Healthy Native Communities” (2010).

Some cities and state governments have gone further. The South Dakota state legislature passed a bill in 1989 proclaiming 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between the state’s Native American and White citizens. As a result, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson designated Columbus Day as the state’s American Indian Day, making it a state-sanctioned holiday. Los Angeles, California voted in August 2017 to ‘dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples.’

On Election Day 2018 (November 6), Democrats Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation tribe and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Davids, a lesbian, made history for being the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas in Congress. Native Americans of New Mexico were the last to be enfranchised in 1962, nearly forty years after the Indian Citizenship Act. Davids and Haaland join Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin in Congress.

“Word does not understand NaNoWriMo”

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words of any writing style. NaNo began in July 1999 with Chris Baty and twenty others writing novels from scratch, ending on August 1. The following year, a friend built a website for the event to allow several hundred participants. By then NaNo had moved to November to “more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” That year, there were 140 participants, including some from Canada. That year, a few guidelines – novels must be started from scratch, no co-authoring allowed and novels had to be emailed to headquarters for verification by midnight Pacific Time on November 30. 21 of the 140 completed their novels.

In its third year, thanks to an article in the Los Angeles Times, five thousand participated. With upgrades to the website, participants could now track their progress, and created forums. In it’s fourth year, participation grew exponentially and 14,000 signed up. The participation continued to grow and by 2012, there were 450,000 participants worldwide.

The program expanded to other endeavors. In 2004, the Cambodian Libraries program was established and NaNo gave 50% of its net profits, raising over $7,000 to establish three children’s libraries in different villages. NaNo became a nonprofit in 2008 under the name Office of Letters and Light so that it could also be involved in other projects, including Script Frenzy and the Young Writer’s Program.

Over the years, many authors including Veronica Roth (the Divergent series), Naomi Novik (the Temeraire series), Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, and The Great Gilly Hopkins) and Janet Fitch (White Oleander) have given pep talks to encourage participants.

Others have created similar projects including the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge launched in 2008 and Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). Although most book published are genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and young adult, there are a few historical fiction novels, such as Jennifer S. Brown’s Modern Girls published in 2016,

While NaNo is geared toward fiction, there are “NaNo Rebels” who write in other genres including memoir, nonfiction, history, songs, and essays. Some historical fiction projects include: Tara Gabriel’s 2015 novel was “set in Ireland in 1920, which happens to be smack dab in the middle of the Irish War for Independence, sometimes called the Anglo-Irish War. This is the war that broke Ireland into the Republic of Ireland, newly independent at the end of the war, and Northern Ireland, which remains under British rule to this day.” Kate Spofford’s 2017 NaNo project “takes place shortly after the Reign of Terror in France.”

Others, such as Barbara Ridley are working on their on contemporary fiction based on their experiences. Her book is “set in California, early 2000’s, and is inspired by my years of clinical experience working with activists in the disability community, and patients who find the resilience to rebuild their lives after spinal cord injury.” Grace Tierney’s historical fiction, The Light-Keeper’s Diary is about historian Dervla O’Malley discovering Cecil Standish’s 1917 diary written at Castle Cove Lighthouse.

A few have or are working on non-fiction, including artist Celine Terranova’s 2018 NaNo, The Part-Time Artist.

From 2006 to 2017, nearly 400 NaNo novels have been published by traditional presses and over 200 by smaller presses or self-publishing, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and The Beautiful Land, by Alan Averill.