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The Creation of American Indian Heritage Month What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions.

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Presentation on theme: "The Creation of American Indian Heritage Month What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Creation of American Indian Heritage Month What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

2 Early Proponents One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans" and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting, formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day.

3 State Celebrations The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of N.Y. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

4 American Indian Place Names Many American places have been named after Indian words. In fact, about half of the states got their names from Indian words.

5 American Indian Place Namescontinued Kentucky comes from an Iroquoian word (Kentahten), which means "land of tomorrow. Connecticut's name comes from the Mohican word (Quinnehtukqut), which means "beside the long tidal river." Manhattan (NY)-- Algonquian, believed to mean "isolated thing in water." Arizona-- from the Indian "Arizonac," meaning "little spring" or "young spring." Kansas--from a Sioux word meaning "people of the south wind." Utah--from the Ute tribe, meaning "people of the mountains."

6 Navajo Code Talkers The Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to They served in all Marine divisions, transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native languagea code that the Japanese never broke.

7 Why Navajo? The idea to use Navajo for secure communications came from Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajos and one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently. He also knew that Native American languagesnotably Choctawhad been used in World War I to encode messages. Johnston believed Navajo answered the military requirement for an undecipherable code because Navajo is an unwritten language of extreme complexity. Its syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training. It has no alphabet or symbols, and is spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest.

8 The Navajo Code Talker's Dictionary When a Navajo code talker received a message, what he heard was a string of seemingly unrelated Navajo words. The code talker first had to translate each Navajo word into its English equivalent. Then he used only the first letter of the English equivalent in spelling. Thus, the Navajo words "wol-la-chee" (ant), "be-la-sana" (apple) and "tse-nill" (axe) all stood for the letter "a." One way to say the word "Navy" in Navajo code would be "tsah (needle) wol-la-chee (ant) ah-keh-di-glini (victor) tsah-ah- dzoh (yucca)."

9 The Navajo Code Talkers Dictionarycontinued Not all words had to be spelled out letter by letter. The developers of the original code assigned Navajo words to represent about 450 frequently used military terms that did not exist in the Navajo language. Several examples: "besh-lo" (iron fish) meant "submarine," "dah-he-tih-hi" (hummingbird) meant "fighter plane" and "debeh-li-zine" (black street) meant "squad."

10 Success in the Pacific At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima. Connor had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. Those six sent and received more than 800 messages, all without error. The Japanese chief of intelligence, Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue, said that while they were able to decipher the codes used by the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps, they never cracked the code used by the Marines.

11 Department of Defense Honors Navajo Veterans Long unrecognized because of the continued value of their language as a security classified code, the Navajo code talkers of World War II were honored for their contributions to defense on Sept. 17, 1992, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Thirty-five code talkers, all veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps, attended the dedication of the Navajo code talker exhibit. The exhibit includes a display of photographs, equipment and the original code, along with an explanation of how the code worked.

12 Early Proponents- continued Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens. The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

13 Prepared by Andrew Jones Purchase College All information provided by

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