Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today recognized National Native American Heritage Month to honor the tradition, culture, contributions, achievements and sacrifices of Native Americans. Johnson entered a statement in the Congressional Record.
Full text of the Congressional Record Statement from Johnson below:
Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, each November we recognize National Native American Heritage Month to honor the tradition, culture, contributions, achievements, and sacrifices of those that originally inhabited this great nation. With over five million individuals of Native American descent in the United States, it is important to celebrate the instrumental impact Native American culture has had on American history. National Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity to focus our attention on the beliefs of tribal sovereignty by ensuring trust responsibilities and strengthening government-to-government relationships with tribes across the Nation.
Representing a state that is home to nine treaty tribes, this month has added significance to me. I would like to personally acknowledge and honor South Dakota’s nine treaty tribes: the Cheyenne River Sioux, the Crow Creek Sioux, the Flandreau Santee Sioux, the Lower Brule Sioux, the Oglala Sioux, the Rosebud Sioux, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Yankton Sioux. South Dakota greatly benefits from the rich heritage and culture each tribe brings to our state.
It is fitting that President Obama has declared November 23, 2012, the day after Thanksgiving, as “Native American Heritage Day” in an effort to fully appreciate the legacy American Indian culture has had on our Nation since its infancy. I am pleased we have honored our Native American Indian and Alaska Native people with a day, week, and month of observance every year since 1976.
During this month’s commemoration, we must not only celebrate our Native American Indian and Alaska Native’s past, but also emphasize where improvements are needed for their future well-being. I am proud the Indian Affairs Committee has recently approved my legislation to reauthorize the Native American Languages Preservation Act, and I hope my colleagues will consider this important measure, as it is critical to preserve Native languages that have long influenced our history and culture. We should promote diversity rather than suppress it, as the foundation of the United States is built on diverse cultures and backgrounds. While we pause to recognize the strong contributions our tribes have made to this nation, the federal government must uphold its responsibilities to our tribal communities.
I hope students around the United States take the opportunity this month to learn about the Thanksgiving story from the American Indian point of view. By observing and celebrating National Native American Heritage Month, we are reaffirming our nation’s respect for American Indian people. I would like to acknowledge and praise the more than 70,000 American Indians in South Dakota who bring an unique and enriching culture to our communities. I urge everyone in America to participate in our celebration of American Indians, not only during the month of November, but through a daily commitment to advancing the quality of life of American Indians, in an effort for our Nation to move forward with strength and resolve.