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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 3, 1997




American Indians and Alaska Natives have played a vital role in the life of our country, and their many contributions have enhanced the freedom, prosperity, and greatness of America today. In celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month, we reaffirm our country's commitment to remember those contributions and to honor the unique heritage of our continent's first inhabitants.

This special observance also reflects our continuing commitment to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments as an integral part of the social, political, and economic fabric of the United States. The framers of our Constitution incorporated Indian nations into the political and legal framework of this country, forever joining the destiny of the tribal nations with that of the American people. By this action, our founders charged themselves and future generations with the moral obligation to guard the rights and fundamental liberties of our country's tribal peoples as zealously as we protect the rights of all Americans.

As we enter the next millennium, we have an exciting opportunity to open a new era of understanding, cooperation, and respect among all of America's people. We must work together to tear down the walls of separation and mistrust and build a strong foundation for the future. To accomplish this, we must strengthen tribal governments, improve the quality of education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth, build stable, diversified economies in tribal communities, create high-wage jobs, and ensure that all our citizens have the skills, education, and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.

The government-to-government relationship between the tribes and the United States embodies the fundamental American belief that people of widely varied and diverse cultural backgrounds can join together to build a great country. Such greatness can be sustained, however, only so long as we honor the ideals and principles upon which America is founded and abide by our commitments to all our people. In recognition of America's moral and legal obligations to American Indians and Alaska Natives, and in light of the special trust relationship between tribal governments and the Government of the United States, we celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 1997 as National American Indian Heritage Month. I urge all Americans, as well as their elected representatives at the Federal, State, local, and tribal levels, to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-second.


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