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House passes legislation to designate a Native American Heritage Day

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WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Nov. 13, introduced by Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., that encourages the designation of the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day bill, H.J. Res. 62, encourages the establishment of a day to pay tribute to American Indians for their many contributions to the United States.

''Native Americans have enriched American culture throughout their proud history,'' Baca said. ''It is important that we recognize these contributions and ensure all Americans are properly educated on the heritage and achievements of Native Americans. For years, I have fought to ensure Native Americans receive the recognition they deserve, and today, I am proud the House has passed this vital bill.''

The Native American Heritage Day bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies and activities. It also encourages public elementary and secondary schools to enhance student understanding of American Indians by providing classroom instruction focusing on their history, achievements and contributions.

''This bill will help to preserve the history and legacy of Native Americans,'' Baca added. ''Native Americans and their ancestors have played a critical role in the formation of our nation. They have fought with valor and died in every American war dating back to the Revolutionary War. We must encourage greater awareness of the significant role they have played in America's history.''

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The Native American Heritage Day bill is currently supported by 184 federally recognized Indian tribes throughout the nation. The bill has also gained wide support in the House of Representatives, including co-sponsorship from the chairman of the Native American Caucus, Rep. Dale Kildee.

Baca has been an active member of the Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives since first coming to Congress in 1999.