Native Americans are a segment of society often overlooked, but that is not the case in Mount Airy where a special effort has been undertaken to honor them.
This included the presentation of a special proclamation during a recent meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners recognizing November as American Indian Heritage Month in the city. During the same meeting, a member of a local historical group detailed its efforts to assist Native Americans.
While their presence is not overly visible here, as many as 500 people are living in Surry County who have American Indian and Alaska native origins, according to U.S. Census figures.
The nation has benefited from and been significantly influenced by indigenous peoples, according to the city proclamation read by Mayor Ron Niland. It states that their contributions “have enhanced the freedom, prosperity and greatness of America today.”
Native Americans’ customs and traditions are celebrated and respected as part of a rich legacy throughout the United States, the proclamation adds.
National Native American Heritage Month originated with the observance of Native American Heritage Week in 1976, which was expanded to an entire month in 1990 when designated as such by Congress and approved by President George H.W. Bush.
It is a time set aside for cultural, artistic, educational and historical activities highlighting that heritage.
The Mount Airy proclamation for National Native American Heritage Month urges local residents to recognize that observance with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.
Local DAR involved
The Jonathan Hunt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), based in Elkin, is doing much to help Native Americans, said Faye Haas of that group, who was presented with the city proclamation.
Although the DAR, as its name implies, includes persons who can trade their lineage to those participating in the Revolutionary War and work to preserve its history, activities on behalf of American Indians also are part of its mission, Haas said.
For one, the Daughters of the American Revolution contributes to the Friends of American Indians Scholarship Fund.
‘We provide scholarships for Indian children across the country,” Haas said.
In addition, the DAR supports two boarding schools for Native Americans, one in Oregon and the other in Oklahoma, which each serve hundreds of students.
“And we try to help them out as much as we can,” Haas said, including providing clothing and supplies.
The Daughters of the American Revolution further supports summer camps serving the American Indian population, she mentioned.