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November 3, 2021 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

The idea of Native American Heritage Month arose at the turn of the 20th Century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions that the people indigenous to American lands made to the establishment and growth of the United States. One of the major proponents was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the Director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. He initially lobbied the Boys Scouts of America to set aside a day in honor of the first Americans.

By 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association in Kansas formally approved a plan recognizing American Indian Day. Its President, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe Indian, later called on the country to set aside a special day of recognition as well. To this end, 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 White House with endorsements from 24 states in support of a national day.

The first state to declare an official day was New York in 1916. Many other states followed, some using the second Saturday in May and others celebrating on the fourth Friday in September. More recently, some states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day or Inigenous People's Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990, President George Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as "Native American Indian Heritage Month." Many proclamations have since been made to include "Native American Heritage Month" and "Native American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month" as a part of the annual celebration.

ARTHER CASWELL PARKER (April 5, 1881 – January 1, 1955)

Dr. Arthur C. Parker was born and spent his early years on the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation of New York. Though his father was Seneca, his mother was a Christian missionary, and because the Seneca are a matrilineal nation, you are only considered a member if your mother is a member. Parker was not considered an official member of the tribe until he was adopted as an honorary member as an adult.

Parker started his formal education on the reservation as his mother was a teacher on the reservation. His family later moved off the reservation and he attended public school, from where he graduated in 1897. Before going on to college, he spent a considerable amount of time at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as a special assistant archaeologist and from there, moved on to numerous top archaeology positions.

Parker was influenced by both Seneca culture and Christian culture and explored his lineage as a way of connecting himself to a powerful past and bridging together 20th-Century American life. He founded the Society of American Indians, the National Congress of American Indians and was instrumental in the creation of a day (now a month) that nationally recognizes the contributions of Native Americans to the rise of the United States. 

WAYNE NEWTON (April 3, 1942 - present)

(Photo: John Mathew Smith) 

Singer and musician Wayne Newton was born in Virginia to a Cherokee mother and a Powahatan father. Because he was plagued by asthma, the family moved to Arizona when he was 10 years old. He and his brothers performed all over the city and on local television stations. By age 12, the Newton brothers landed a two week-gig in Las Vegas — which was extended for nearly a year. They also appeared on the Jackie Gleason Show numerous times and opened for Jack Benny. Audiences loved the baby-faced singer Wayne Newton with the soprano voice.

A gifted musician, Newton taught himself to play several instruments, including piano, banjo and guitar. In 1962, singer Bobby Darin took Newton under his wing and helped him launch his solo career. He ended up hitting the charts with “Danke Schoen,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.” 
Though he is no longer topping the charts, he has enjoyed over 50 years of success performing in Las Vegas — at one point as the highest paid act in the city — and has had a successful television and movie career. He is still performing today at age 79.

MARIA TALLCHIEF (January 14, 1925 - April 11, 2013)

Maria Tall Chief (her birth name) was born in Oklahoma to an Osage Nation father. Her great-grandfather had helped negotiate oil rights that enriched the Osage people; therefore her family was considered wealthy. She began ballet classes at the age of three and studied piano with the hopes of being a concert pianist. When she was eight years old, the family moved to Los Angeles and eventually settled in Beverly Hills, where she started using the last name “Tallchief” (one word) after facing painful discrimination for her very Native American-sounding name.

In Beverly Hills she met Bronislaca Nijinska, a renowned choreographer who ignited Tallchief’s passion for ballet. After graduating from high school, she began looking for a job as a working dancer, first landing a role with the corps de ballet, but later gaining increasingly more visible roles. As she become more known, she ended up in Paris, where she became the first American to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet. By the time she came home, she was a star and the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet.

Tallchief's choreographer and husband for a time, George Balanchine, was known for his revolutionary style of athletic, aggressive and high-speed dancing — a style that was a good fit for Tallchief. He reworked The Nutcracker, an obscure ballet, and Tallchief was awarded the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Their vision transformed the ballet into an annual Christmas classic and the industry’s most reliable box office draw. 

After her retirement, she continued to promote dance and Balanchine’s techniques. Today, she is considered a trailblazer in the world of dance.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at