It’s Not Just Black Friday...

It’s Also

Native American Heritage Day!!!

National Native American Heritage Day on the day after Thanksgiving honors American Indians across the nation. The day celebrates the vibrant cultures, traditions, and heritages while recognizing the many contributions Native Americans have made.

The day encourages listening to Native American voices and fostering pride in the vibrant and layered heritage that’s embedded deep within our society.

In the United States today, Native Americans contribute to society daily. Whether through art or government, their insight and perspective elevate an art form or a district. They serve in the military, the medical and legal fields. Their knowledge wins battles large and small.

2009: Day after Thanksgiving named Native American Heritage Day

President Barack Obama signs “The Native American Heritage Day Resolution 2009,” designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” The resolution had unanimous support in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

In signing H.J. Res. 40 into law, 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.”

2009: Reservation clinics, hospitals overcrowded and in need of repair

A budget shortfall has left more than 700 Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities scattered through 36 states, mostly in rural and isolated areas, in need of maintenance. The average IHS facility is more than 30 years old and severely overcrowded, in part because of the need to add more staff to serve growing American Indian populations. Whenever new facilities are built, they are typically three times larger than the ones they replace.

For most American Indians/Alaska Natives, the Indian Health Service is their primary source of health care.

2009: Class action settled over mismanagement of Indian accounts, lands

American Indian landowners and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar reach a settlement in a long-running class action lawsuit. By its terms, the federal government would create a $1.4 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund, as well as an Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indians. The settlement is far lower than the billions of dollars that plaintiffs said American Indians were owed for the mismanagement of their land in the century since the government allotted land to individual American Indians, and Congress must still appropriate the funds to cover it.

In Cobell v. Salazar, the plaintiffs asserted that the federal government mismanaged individual Americans Indians’ trust accounts in which income from Bureau of Indian Affairs leases of American Indian–owned lands should have been deposited, and that this mismanagement contributed to the poverty of American Indians for over a century.

2010: Indian Health Care Improvement Act permanently renewed

The cornerstone legal authority for the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives becomes permanent when President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976 had not been reauthorized since 2000: without authorization, the Indian Health Service (IHS)—the primary provider of medical care to American Indians and Alaska Natives—risked losing funding. Under the new authorization, the IHS can begin to modernize its services, developing mobile health care, mental health counseling, and long-term in home or community care, as well as hospice services.

“Earlier today, I signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health insurance reform bill passed by Congress. In addition to reducing our deficit, making health care affordable for tens of millions of Americans, and enacting some of the toughest insurance reforms in history, this bill also permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which was first approved by Congress in 1976. As a Senator, I co-sponsored this Act back in 2007 because I believe it is unacceptable that Native American communities still face gaping health care disparities. Our responsibility to provide health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives derives from the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal and tribal governments. And today, with this bill, we have taken a critical step in fulfilling that responsibility by modernizing the Indian health care system and improving access to health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.” —President Barack Obama, March 26, 2010

“Indian health care programs – both the health services we provide and the way we provide them – urgently need to be updated. This legislation will modernize Indian health care programs and provide innovative ways to increase access to heal." —Senator Dorgan.

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