MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Native spirits soar as the month of November honors our nation’s first Americans.
Native American Heritage Month not only commemorates a culture shared by nearly five million Americans, but honors a heritage with the highest record of military service, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent polls.
Today, more than 160,000 Native American veterans carry on a legacy of service seen in every U.S. war, according to the Department of the Navy’s Naval Historical Center. Military service that dates back before 1924, when the U.S. granted our nation’s indigenous people citizenship.
“Our debt to our First Americans is immense,” said President Barack Obama in his Native American Heritage Month proclamation, Oct. 30. “From the American Revolution to combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have fought valiantly in the defense of our Nation as dedicated servicemen and women.”
The first American Indian Day was celebrated in 1916, but a month-long Native American recognition would not be adopted for another 74 years.
It wasn’t until1990 that former President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution that declared November as National Native American Heritage Month. Since then, similar proclamations have been issued every year.
“Long before European explorers set foot on the North American continent, this great land has been cultivated and cherished by generations of American Indians,” said former President George H. W. Bush, in 1990’s first National American Indian Heritage Month proclamation, Public Law 101-343.
Camp Pendleton’s 220 square-mile base shares a past full of Native American heritage and culture dating back nearly 1,000 years. Two major tribes, the Luiseno and Juaneno, settled on present-day Pendleton.
“My family has served in every U.S. war that has ever been fought,” said Abel Silvas, local Juaneno Tribal Council leader. “The base has done a great job preserving the land of our ancestors.”
Pendleton continues to preserve, protect and support Native American ancestry with archeological displays at Pendleton’s historic Santa Margarita Ranch House Museum and ceremonial events.
“Native American voices have echoed through the mountains, valleys, and plains of our country for thousands of years, and it is now our time to listen,” said Obama in his proclamation’s closing remarks.