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Native American Heritage Month


Luis A. Ochoa

What started in 1915 as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including "Native American Heritage Month" and "National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month") have been issued each year since 1994.

The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

This month is very special to me and my family, but for reasons that many may not know. As those who know me professionally, this is the area of the law to which I have devoted most of my legal career and practice, but the reasons for my interest and devotion to this area of the law are personal. My son, Carlton, is an enrolled member of a Native American tribe and he is very proud of both his Indian (from his mother's side) and Hispanic (from his father's side) heritage, values and culture, as he has been raised to know, understand and appreciate both. He is especially proud to have known and spent time with his great grandfather, Arthur J. Hubbard, Sr., who passed away earlier this year at the age of 102.

Mr. Hubbard is a true American and Native American hero and a role model for young kids across the Nation. Hubbard stepped forward and volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II from 1939 to 1945. While serving in WWII, Hubbard trained over 200 men in the famed unit that played a critical role in the Allied victory. In 2000, Mr. Hubbard received the Navajo Code Talker Congressional Silver Medal.

Beyond his military service, Mr. Hubbard also served in the Arizona Legislature from 1972 to 1984 as the first Native American senator elected to the Arizona State Senate. Like my son, I am blessed and honored to have known Mr. Hubbard and to have focused my legal career on helping Native Americans and tribes advance and achieve their goals and rights of self-determination.