“I still paint according to my own ideas”

March is Youth Art Month originated as Children’s Art Month in 1961, which the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) created to show children the value of visual art education. Eight years later, secondary school students were added and it was re-named Youth Art Month. Youth Art Month recognizes that art is necessary for developing a better quality of life and fosters critical thinking. Youth Art Month also encourages commitment to and creating opportunities and support for art and art education. In 1984, ACMI created The Council for Art Education (CFAE) a non-profit that advocates for visual art education, which coordinates national Youth Art Month. There are local and state events at libraries, museums and state capitol buildings. As of 2018, New York has received an award honoring New York State (NYS) art educators at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference. The 2018/2019 theme is “Your Art, Your Story”.

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Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann, known as Angelica Kauffman (October 30, 1741-November 5, 1807) was the daughter of muralist Johann Joseph Kauffman, who trained her. During the 1760s, she worked as her father’s assistant, traveling with him through Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. This allowed her to copy classical and Renaissance paintings and meet leaders in the burgeoning movement, Neoclassicism. She stayed in Italy for three years, gaining a reputation as a portrait painter. She also painted history paintings.

She was elected to the Rome’s Accademia di San Luca in 1765, to recognize her accomplishments. The following year, she moved to London and immediately became successful as a portrait painter. She was one of two women founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and held regular exhibitions there, working for many aristocratic and royal patrons. She married painter Antonio Zucchi in 1781. He succeeded her father as her business manager. When she died, her funeral was directed by Antonio Canova, a famous Neoclassical sculptor who based it on the funeral of the Renaissance painter Raphael.

Wang Yani (Born: 1975) is a painter, whose father is a self-taught oil painter. He gave up his painting to prevent his style from influencing hers, and to help promote her career.

Wang began painting when she was two and had her first exhibit by six. By 1989, she had shows in West Germany, Britain, and Japan. She gave her painting “Impressions of the Zoo,” which she did at fourteen, to the city of San Francisco in 1989 when she was 14. It was done in the xieyi or “idea writing style,” depicting a flock of flamingos at the zoo. Her work was displayed across the U.S. over several months. That year, she became the youngest person to give a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, with a show at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery for Asian art in Washington. The exhibit was called “Yani: The Brush of Innocence” and ran from June to October 1989.

In 1991, she returned to the U.S. to promote a children’s book about her life and paintings, A Young Painter: The Life and Paintings of Wang Yani-China’s Extraordinary Young Artist by Zheng Zhensun and Alice Low. It was written after Zheng Shensun, a journalist and photographer visited Wang’s family home in rural Guocheng.

By 16, Wang had completed more than 10,000 paintings, and only a few, done during overseas visits and donated to foreign institutions were sold.

Edmund Thomas Clint (May 19 1976-April 15, 1983) was an Indian boy. He, like Wang, began drawing at 2, using, using crayon, oil paint, and water color. At 5, he won a competition for painters under 18. By the time he died, a month before turning 7, he had painted over 25,000 pictures. He is the subject of a biography A Brief Hour of Beauty.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors, And People Helping People

March is Social Work Month. The White House officially recognized National Professional Social Work Month in 1984. That year’s theme was “Listen to the Children.” The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) selected an annual theme, on topics such as hate crimes, violence prevention, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS.

The 2019 theme is “Elevate Social Work” to “recognize the extraordinary contributions of the profession to our society.” The NASW estimates that there will be “more than 682,000 people expected to be employed as social workers by 2026.” Social workers are the “largest group of providers of mental health services in the United States and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs the most social workers with advanced degrees. For more than a century, social workers have helped people with issues such as voting rights, workplace safety, minimum wage and welfare programs, and equal rights for women, LGBTQ individuals, African Americans, Latinos, those with disabilities, and other groups.

Hidiya Hanim Barakat (1898–1969) was an Egyptian philanthropist and social worker who began working with a team of women in the 1920s. Her organization set up clinics, hospitals, schools, and orphanages in most of the major towns, and providing relief during epidemics.

She was the daughter of a former magistrate and palace official and had a privileged upbringing, educated at the French convent Nôtre Dame de la Mère de Dieu until she was thirteen. At twenty, she married Bahaieddine Barakat, a lawyer and member of the leading political family, and who later served as a government minister. Her in-laws used her welfare activities to disseminate Wafdist (nationalist) literature.

Through her court connections, Barakat helped a princess organize a group of philanthropic women, who set up medical clinics in poor parts of Cairo in 1908. Among them was Huda Sha’rawi, daughter of Muhammad Sultan, who created social organizations for women and protested British colonial rule.

In 1909, they named their organization Mabarrat Muhammad Ali (Muhammad Ali the Great Philanthropic Association), known as the Mabarrat. It worked to provide health care especially to rural areas and combat the high infant mortality rate. In 1919, Bakarat founded the Society of the New Women, to teach trades and child care, and establishing orphanages. As one of the leading figures of the feminist movement, Barakat also helped create the “Société de la Femme Nouvelle”, setting up girls’ schools across the countryside.

By the 1950s, the Mabarrat was the biggest, widest-reaching organization in Egypt, and after Nasser’s government was toppled in 1952, Bakarat was elected president of the Mabarrat. Several Egyptian institutions SUCH AS are named after her.

A few days before she did, she was given the highest decoration for organized a clinic, dispensary, and hospital in nearly every major Egyptian town.

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Gwendolyn Margaret Lizarraga, MBE (11 July 1901 – 9 June 1975) was Belize’s first female cabinet minister.

Belize is located in Central America, between Guatemala and Mexico and bordering the Caribbean Sea. Its earliest known inhabitants were the Mayans, between 250 and 900 CE, reaching its peak around the 8th century. The numbers declined by the 16th century when the Spanish arrived, and many of those who remained died of diseases the Spanish introduced, or were sent to Guatemala.

The Spanish moved out of the area, and the British moved in the 1670s. The British began cutting logwood to export to Europe, going further inland to cut mahogany and cedar. The Spanish and British fought for control, until the Spanish lost in 1798. Nearly fifty years later, the Mayans revolted against the Spanish in what is now Mexico and Mayans, dissident Spaniards, and Mestizos (those of mixed Spanish and Mayan ancestry) refugees fled to what is now Belize. To resolve tensions, the settlement requested to become a British colony and was renamed British Honduras in 1862. It became a colony in 1870.

In 1954, the first general elections were held. The People’s United Party (PUP) won. In February 1954, Gwendolyn Lizarraga formed the United Women’s Group (UWG), the women’s arm of the party, to advocate for social justice and empowerment of women. During the 1950s, before the Universal Adult Suffrage, only property owners were allowed to vote so Lizarraga assisted women in acquiring their own house and lot. There were 1,400 (UWG) members by May 1959.

Gwendolyn Lizarraga was the first woman to run for office in Belize. She ran for the Pickstock Division in 1961, one of five challengers. She won 69% of the vote. She became the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services. She was elected for a second therm as Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services in 1965, and a third term in 1969. During this term, she became involved in improving housing conditions and providing youth education. During her time as Minister of Education, the first Junior Secondary School was established in 1968 which was later re-named Gwen Lizarraga High School. Lizarraga was also the first woman to be elected to the National Assembly and first female minister.

Despite the elections, it was not until 1864 that British Honduras became self-governing. The government seat was moved from Belize City to Belmopan in 1971, and the country’s name was named to Belize in 1973. Belize finally gained its independence on 21 September 1981.

One of the few books written about social work is Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. I was lucky enough to get my copy autographed when Fadiman visited a friend’s English class, which her husband taught. 

With weary feet the paths of pain

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Horace Pippin (February 22, 1888 – July 6, 1946), was a self-taught African-American painter whose subject matter ranged from trench warfare to historical, and religious.

He was born West Chester, Pennsylvania until he was three when his family moved to Goshen, New York. He left school at fifteen to support his ailing mother. After she died, he moved to New Jersey and worked various jobs before enlisting in the army in 1917. During the war, he recorded his experiences, including drawings. His papers are housed at the Archives of American ArtHe seriously wounded his right arm in France and received the French Croix de Guerre. He left the army in 1919 and married the following year before returning to West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Pippin’s injury led him to explore other artistic expressions, including pyrography, or burnt-wood panels (he drew on wood using hot pokers). But he preferred oil painting and it became a form of therapy to deal with his memories from the war. In the early 1930s, he completed an oil panting on the about his experiences, called The End of the War: Starting Home.

He was the first black painter to use art to express concerns about war and sociopolitical injustice, and to have his paintings accepted by the West Chester County Art Association. He became known regionally and in 1939 his fame spread when the Robert Carlen Galleries of Philadelphia became his dealer. The following year, Pippin gave sporadic lectures at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. His most renowned works include three paintings of the abolitionist John Brown. He also created a series of paintings based on the Bible and the works of the Quaker painter Edward Hicks.

In 1938, the Museum of Modern Art included four of Pippin’s paintings in a traveling exhibit. By the time he died in 1946, he had solo shows in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, had won prizes in important contemporary art shows had become famous internationally, and sold most of his 130 paintings, wood panels, and drawings to museums and influential collectors across the country.

You can help transcribe his writings through the Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program. 

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Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825–February 22, 1911) was a poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist. She was born in Baltimore, the only child of free black parents. She attended the Academy for Negro Youth, which her uncle founded, until age 13. Then she went to work in a Quaker household where she read a wide range of literature.

In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required escaped slaves who were captured to be returned to their masters. Harper moved to Ohio and began teaching at the Union Seminary, a new school for black children in Columbus. The principal was abolitionist John Brown. Harper was the first black woman to teach vocational courses at the school, teaching domestic and homemaking skills.

In 1851, Harper moved to Pennsylvania and worked with William Still, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which helped slaves escape to Canada on the Underground Railroad. She became a traveling speaker on abolition and wrote for anti-slavery newspapers, becoming the “mother of African American journalism.”

She was a prolific writer who published many poetry collections, such as Autumn Leaves (also published as Forest Leaves) (1845); Sketches of Southern Life (1872), about the post-Civil War (1861-1865) Reconstruction and novels, including Iola Leroy (1892), essay collections, and short stories, such as “The Two Offers,” the first short story published by an African American.

She married Fenton Harper in 1860. After he died in 1864, Harper continued to support her family though speaking engagements. She championed civil rights, women’s rights, and educational opportunities for all. She was superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women, and a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, and director of the American Association of Colored Youth. Harper died nine years before women gained the right to vote.

“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”

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Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, pen name Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922), was one of, if not the first investigative journalists in the United States.

Cochrane was born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, which her father Judge Cochrane founded. She was one of fifteen children born to her father and his two wives. When she was fifteen, he died intestate, leaving the family with little money. Her journalistic career began after Erasmus Wilson published an article “The Quiet Observer” in his Pittsburgh Dispatch, denouncing women in the workforce. Cochrane, calling herself the “Lonely Orphan Girl,” angrily responded that there needed to be a wider definition of a “woman’s sphere,” especially for those who had to support their families. Editor George Madden ran a notice asking the “Orphan Girl” to contact him, and he gave her a job. She joined the staff, signing her articles “Nellie Bly.”

She earned $5 per week, writing a “women’s column” for the Pittsburgh Dispatch on home, gardening, society, child-rearing and other similar topics. Eventually, she began to write about more serious issues, including investigating how divorce affected women. In time, her journalistic talents earned her $25,000 per year.

She soon moved to New York to pursue other subjects and freelanced for several months. Then she wrote a piece on the difficulty of female reporters had finding work in New York, in which she interviewed the great editors of the time. This led to her first assignment with the New York World, where Joseph Pulitzer had begun what became known as “new journalism.” He wanted Bly to pretend to be insane to get committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island. Bly stayed there for ten days and wrote a two-part series in October 1887 about the horrendous conditions. This was the beginning of a decades of “stunt” reporting, a predecessor to investigative journalism. This genre allowed women to demonstrate that they could also be reporters, and they became the first women to enter mainstream journalism in the twentieth century.

Bly went on to investigate employment agencies for domestic servants, the baby-buying trade and corruption in the New York legislature. But her biggest feat was yet to come. In November 1889, Bly began the journey that would cement her fame. She beat the fictional record of Jules Verne’s Phineas Fogg, in his novel Around the World in 80 Days when she made the trip in 72 days 6 hours 11 minutes. She chronicled her journey in New York World. But when she was not rewarded for her efforts, Bly quit and accepted a three-year contract for N.L Munro’s New York Family Story Paper writing serial fiction. This proved unsuccessful and she returned to the World in 1893, interviewing Emma Goldman and Eugene V. Debs, and covering stories such as the march of Jacob Coxey’s Army on Washington and the Pullman strike in Chicago.

She left the World a for the last time in 1895 and after a short time at the Chicago Times-Herald, she married Robert Livingston Seaman who was more than forty years older. The marriage lasted nine years until Seaman died. During that time, Bly took over his iron enamel-ware firm, the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. and patented, manufactured, and marketed the steel barrel in the United States. While Bly was hopeless at finances and eventually lost the company, the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. gave its employees health benefits and provided recreational facilities.

To earn some money, Bly went to Vienna in August 1914 where she stayed until 1919, writing for the New York Evening Journal from the Russian and Serbian fronts. After the war, she returned to New York and wrote for the Evening Journal, running an advice column. Her most celebrated work was placing illegitimate children in good homes and campaigning for seamen who were having trouble finding work.

Bly died of pneumonia in 1922 at 57.

Her experiences are chronicled in her many books, including: Six Months in Mexico (1886), Ten Days in a Madhouse (1887), The Mystery of Central Park (1889), and Nellie Bly’s Book: Around the World in Seventy-two Days (1890).

In 2018, the Newseum opened its “Nellie Bly: The Virtual Reality Experience” which tracks Bly from Egypt to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, San Francisco and her adventures, including a snowstorm in Singapore that nearly impeded her progress. The exhibit provides background on Bly’s previous reporting and chronicles accomplishments in the women’s rights movement.

This is the Newseum’s second exhibit on Bly. The first was a 4-D introductory film (now playing only in 2-D), which recounts the undercover operation in 1887.

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On January 25, 1881, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell founded the world’s first telephone company, the Oriental Telephone Company. Though he was credited with inventing the first telephone, the United States Congress recognized in 2002 that it was Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant, who invented the telephone. He began developing the talking telegraph, or telephone in 1849. In 1871, he filed a caveat (announcing an invention), but could not review his caveat. On June 11, 2002, the Unite States House of Representatives passed a Resolution honoring Meucci’s work.

Thirty-four years after founding the Oriental Telephone Company, on January 25, 1915, Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental telephone call, from New York City to San Francisco, more than 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles) away.

When Bell made the call to Watson, his former assistant, he was asked to re-enact the first conversation they had on March 10, 1876, when Bell said, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” However, there is some discrepancy as to whether Bell said, “Watson, come here, I want you,” or “Come here, I need you.” Though that might be a fiction, as Bell had just spilled battery acid on himself before summoning Watson. This time Watson replied, “It would take me a week now.”

“The legal world does not discriminate by sex or race and this is possibly an example of it working rather well.”

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On January 4, 1972, Dame Rose Heilbron (August 19 1914-December 8 2005) became the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey in London, England.

Heilbron was born into a Jewish family in Liverpool Her father was a hotelier who managed a lodging house for Jewish émigrés. Her mother, Nellie, who died in 1939, encouraged her educational ambitions.

She achieved a number of firsts for women during her legal education and career. She graduated from Liverpool University in 1935 with a first-class honours degree in law and became first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn the next year, when she received the Lord Justice Holker scholarship. In 1937, she received a master of laws degree and joined the bar in 1939, as a member of the northern circuit.

Through the six years of World War II, and afterward, Heilbron’s career rose. By 1946, Heilbron had appeared in 10 murder trials. In 1949, at 34, Heilbron and Helena Normanton, who was nearly twice her age, became the first women king’s counsel. That year, Heilbron became the first woman to lead in an English murder case. She defended the gangster George Kelly, accused of shooting and killing the deputy manager of the Cameo cinema in Liverpool. Kelly was convicted and hanged, but through the first half of the 1950s, Heilbron successfully defended many of her clients. One case involved four men accused of hanging a boy during a burglary, which she proved that it had been an accident, and another was Louis Bloom the Hartlepool solicitor accused of murdering his mistress in his office.

In 1956, she became the first woman recorder (chief criminal judge) of Burnley, in Britain, and the first woman judge at the Old Bailey in 1972. Two years later, she was created a dame in 1974. From 1974 until she retired in 1988 she served as a Judge of the High Court (Family Division), the second British woman to be appointed to the High Court. In 1985, she became treasurer at Gray’s Inn, saying of her appointment, “The legal world does not discriminate by sex or race and this is possibly an example of it working rather well.”

Her daughter Hilary Heilbron has written a book about her, Legal Pioneer of the 20th Century: Inspiring Advocate who became England’s First Woman Judge published in 2012.

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On January 4, 2007, the 110th United States Congress convened, electing Nancy Pelosi (Born: March 26, 1940) as the first female Speaker of the House. Her family has served in public positions. Her father and brother were both Baltimore mayors, and her father also served in the state Congress.

In 1976, she worked on California Governor Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign. By 1981, she was the Democratic Party chair for California, recruiting candidates and raising funds. The following year, States Representative Sala Burton of California – a Polish émigré who fled the Nazis and settled in America and filled her husband’s Congressional after he died suddenly – encouraged Pelosi to run for her seat after she died. Pelosi filled the vacancy in 1987 and has been re-elected to sixteen succeeding Congresses (June 2, 1987-present).

Pelosi has served on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations committee. In 2001, she was promoted to the House Democratic whip, the second highest position in the party. She rose to minority leader in 2002 when Dick Gephardt stepped, becoming the first woman to ever lead a party in Congress.

In 2006, Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House and was sworn in on January 4, 2007. But she lost her position to Republican John Boehner in 2010 when Democrats lost control of the House. Under Pelosi, the 111th Congress (January 3, 2009, until January 3, 2011) became “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein.

“Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure”

Yohl Ikʻnal, also known as Lady Kan Ik and Lady K’anal Ik’nal, whose name means “Lady Heart of the Wind Place,” (Died November 4, 604) acceded to the throne on December 23, 583, as queen of the Maya city-state of Palenque until she died in 604. She was the first female ruler of Lakam Ha (Palenque).

She was most likely the daughter of Kan Bahla I, who had preceded her, or perhaps his sister. During her reign, her rival Kalakmul attacked twice, but she defeated him. She had at least one son, Ajen Ohl Mat, who succeeded her on January 1, 605 and ruled until he died on August 8, 612.

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Jane Austen’s fourth novel (after Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and Mansfield Park in 1814) Emma was published on December 23, 1815. Austen wrote Emma from January 21, 1814 to March 29, 1815. Instead of using the same publisher as she had for Mansfield Park, Austen went to John Murray, The Quarterly Review publisher. Some of his clients include Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1811 and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Although the novel went on sale on December 23, 1815, as it was so close to the end of the year, the publication date on the title page is listed as 1816. As she had with her previous novels, Austen published Emma anonymously, and the title page reads, “by the Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ etc, etc.” However, there was a difference in this work: a dedication to the Prince of Wales, who admired her work, though Austen disliked him. She had met him and his librarian, James Stanier-Clarke while visiting her brother a few months earlier. During a tour of Carlton House, Stanier-Clarke wrote that Austen “was at liberty to dedicate any future work” to the Regent.

A few weeks before Emma was published, Austen wrote to Murray, expressing concerns about how her novel would be received: “I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those Readers who have preferred P&P. it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who have preferred MP. very inferior in good Sense.” Her fears were somewhat justified, as some of her family liked it, some disliked it, and most thought it somewhere between Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. The public was also ambivalent about Emma and by October 1816, only 1,248 copies had been sold. Only in February 1817 did Austen finally received any profit from Emma, though a quarter of the print run still unsold.

While the plot, form, and technique were not revolutionary, its narrative was. Emma is a “self-deluded young woman with the leisure and power to meddle in the lives of her neighbours” and the narrative “was designed to share her delusions.” Not until the twentieth century did this style of writing have a name: free indirect style (from the French: style indirect libre), which “describes the way in which a writer imbues a third-person narration with the habits of thought or expression of a fictional character.”

Emma though unpopular initially has been turned into films, including Clueless released in 1995. It was announced in October 2018 that there will be remakes of both Emma and Clueless in the near future. The novel was adapted into Jane Austen’s Emma: The Musical, released in 2007.

“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.