In the 1840s, the mid-western state of Nebraska was a territory on a wide prairie. When pioneers settled there, they found few trees for building houses or to burn for fuel. There was no shade from the sun or wind, and crops did not grow well in the dry earth.
J. Sterling Morton was one of those pioneers who moved to the treeless Nebraska territory. He and his wife planted trees on their property immediately after moving from their hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Morton was a journalist, and later the editor, for Nebraska’s first newspaper. In his writings, he advocated planting trees to help life on the vast barren plain.
Later, as a member of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, Morton proposed that citizens of the new state set aside April 10 as a day to plant trees. He believed that the planting of trees and orchards would greatly improve Nebraska’s economy and landscape. He suggested offering prizes as incentives to communities and organizations that planted the most trees properly. Everyone welcomed
the idea enthusiastically. On April 10, 1874, people throughout Nebraska planted about one million trees in celebration of that first Arbor Day. Several years later, Nebraska declared Arbor Day to be a state holiday, and the date was changed to April 22, 1882, which was Morton’s birthday.
The tradition of celebrating Arbor Day spread quickly through the United States. During the 1870s, following Nebraska’s lead, other states adopted the tradition and began to plant Arbor Day trees. At first there was no set date for the celebration, though the last Friday in April was most commonly chosen as the official day. Today National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April; however, because the best tree-planting season changes from region to region, states often choose an alternate date for planting trees. In Hawaii, for example, people plant Arbor Day trees on the first Friday in November, and in Florida, Arbor Day is the third Friday in January.
Arbor Day has now spread beyond the United States and is celebrated in many countries of the world. Because of J. Sterling Morton and his interest in the environment and the wide-scale planting of trees, citizens throughout the world have become more aware of the importance of trees. School children have learned about how trees provide wind and heat protection as well as food and shelter. And
today a visitor to Nebraska would never guess that it was once a dusty and treeless land.
“Arbor Day…is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.” —J. Sterling Morton
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that has an official day on which fathers are honored by their children. On the third Sunday in June, fathers, and all men who act as father figures, all across the United States are given presents, treated to dinner, or otherwise made to feel special.
The origin of Father’s Day is not clear. Some say that it began with a church service in West Virginia in 1908. Others say the first Father’s Day was held in Vancouver, Washington. Another story claims that the president of the Chicago Lions’ Club, Harry Meek, celebrated the first Father’s Day with his organization in
1915, choosing the third Sunday in June, the date closest to his birthday!
Regardless of when the first Father’s Day occurred, the strongest promoter of the holiday was Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington.
She thought of the idea of a Father’s Day while she was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. Mrs. Dodd felt that she had an outstanding father. He was a veteran of the Civil War. His wife had died young, and he had raised six children alone, without their mother. When Mrs. Dodd became an adult she recognized with great appreciation the sacrifices her father had made, and the remarkable job he had done as a single parent.
In 1909, Mrs. Dodd approached her minister and others in Spokane about having a church service dedicated to fathers on June 5, her father’s birthday. That date was too soon for her minister to prepare the service, so he presented it a few weeks later on June 19th. From then on, the state of Washington celebrated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Children made special desserts, or visited their fathers if they lived apart.
States and organizations began lobbying Congress to declare an annual Father’s Day. In
1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved of this idea, but it was not until 1924 that President Calvin
Coolidge made it a national event. He declared that the official recognition of Father’s Day was to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” Since then, fathers have been honored and recognized by their families throughout the country on the third Sunday in June. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation making Father’s Day a national commemorative day.
When children can’t visit their fathers, they usually contact them by telephone or email, or they may send a greeting card. The cards might be traditional and sentimental, or whimsical so fathers laugh when they open them. Father’s Day gifts may be store – bought or hand-made, and traditional gifts might include a tie, shirt, sports item, or a child’s own drawing. Some children give their fathers heartfelt thanks for always being there when they needed “Dad.”
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans across the United States celebrated the first Earth Day. The goal of this event was to emphasize the critical importance of the environment
and to make legislators and the American public aware of the growing destruction of the earth’s natural resources. The founder of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson, had hoped to start an environmental movement so large that it would force politicians to address environmental issues.
His efforts were successful. The first Earth Day got the attention of lawmakers, and as a result, environmental preservation became a national concern. That year the Environmental Protection Agency was created, and Congress amended the Clean
Air Act to set new standards on air quality, and limits on pollution and auto emissions. Year after year new legislation was enacted to further protect and clean up the environment.
The idea for Earth Day came to Senator Nelson in 1969 while he was on a conservation speaking tour in California. Nelson had read about the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and teach-ins on college campuses. This gave him the idea for Earth Day, which he envisioned as a similar kind of teach-in—a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment. With no sponsoring organization or formal plans for the event, Nelson announced the first Earth Day to be held the following spring on April 22—Arbor Day. The idea was embraced enthusiastically by people and organizations across the nation, and the event rapidly gained momentum.
Americans of all ages and from all walks of life celebrated the day in their towns and local communities. Musicians performed songs about nature and protection of the earth. Celebrities spoke about environmental issues, and explained what Americans could do to conserve and recycle. Federal agencies offered expositions showing their efforts in stopping wasteful practices and pollution of the environment. Conservation groups taught about the importance of rain forests and showed how their destruction would impact all life on the planet. Classrooms across the nation introduced curricula on ecology, nature and environmental preservation.
Earth Day continues to be celebrated every year, and has grown into a global event. It has helped Americans, and others the world over, realize that they are stewards of the earth, and they can and should do something to protect the environment.
tangible: adj. concrete; something which can be seen or held mother figure: n. phrase. person who acts as a mother in a child’s life such as a grandmother, stepmother, aunt, sister, good friend
household: adj. relating to the home honor(ed): v. to remember with respect and thanks reformer: n. person who works to bring about social change
perseverance: n. trying again and again without giving up
minister: n. the religious leader in a Protestant church determined: adj. stubbornly certain of attaining a goal service: n. a weekly or special religious ceremony generally held in a church or other place of worship proclaim(ed): v. to officially name; to declare gravesite(s): n. place where a person is buried
father figure(s): n. phrase. person who acts as a father in a child’s life
such as a grandfather, stepfather, uncle, brother, good friend
treat(ed): v. to give or provide without cost, such as a meal or entertainment
Lions Club: n. an international volunteer organization assisting those in need with such things as vision and health screening, supporting eye hospitals, and assisting youth
promoter: n. supporter
sermon: n. a speech delivered in public, usually by a religious leader as part of a religious gathering outstanding: adj. very special; high quality; excellent veteran: n. one who has been a member of the armed forces (army, navy, etc.) appreciation: n. thankfulness
sacrifice(s): n. something given up in exchange for something else; e. g., to give up one’s opportunity in order to help another person be successful single parent: n. phrase. one parent alone raising a child or children approach(ed): v. present someone with an idea or proposal
minister: n. a clergy or religious leader, especially in the Protestant church
dedicate(d): v. to observe or have in honor of lobby(ing): v. to urge officials or members of Congress to vote a certain way on an issue impress upon: v. phrase. to attempt to convince full measure: n. phrase. complete, entire obligation(s): n. responsibilities; duties proclamation: n. an official public announcement commemorative: adj. describing something done to remember a person or an event sentimental: adj. especially emotional whimsical: adj. funny in a light way heartfelt: adj. sincere; from the heart being there: v. phrase. being available, present, supportive
A powwow is a large social gathering of Native American tribes and individuals. Every year, hundreds of powwows occur on Native American reservations and in other locations across the nation from March through August. Powwows are lively occasions that include tribal dance and dance competitions, drumming, singing, Indian foods, art, crafts, educational events, presentations, and in some areas, a rodeo. Despite the festive atmosphere, powwows are also spiritual occasions that involve rituals, blessings, and respectful protocol. These are times for Native Americans to strengthen ties of culture, community and tradition, and to celebrate heritage and history.
The word “pow-wow” comes from an Algonquin Indian word “pau-wau” or “pauau,” which referred to tribal spiritual leaders and their religious and healing ceremonies. The ceremonies usually included dancing and rituals, which were sometimes seen by early European settlers and explorers. Because they did not understand Indian culture or ceremonies, they thought a “pow-wow,”—their mispronunciation of the Indian word— was any tribal gathering or event.
Eventually the Anglicized word became commonly used, even among Native Americans. Now, the word “powwow” and the event itself have come to signify and embody
the spirit and continuity of Native American cultures and people.
Two of the most essential features of a powwow are traditional dancing and drumming. At the start of a powwow, a Dance Arbor is set up and blessed in a ritual way. After this, the Dance Arbor is considered sacred space, and may be entered only by designated individuals for dancing and other special ceremony. Dancers, wearing elaborate regalia, perform traditional dances, or participate in dance competitions, vying for top honors and prize money.
The regalia worn by dancers are meticulously made, and may take years to complete. The designs and elements used may represent the dancer’s tribal affiliation, or combine features of other tribes. The outfit often includes valuable family heirlooms and sacred items such as feathers, for which there are specific rules and protocol. Some of the dancers wear bells on their wrists and ankles, which add a jingling rhythm to the dance. Others, with fancy shawls, look like delicate flying birds as they raise their arms to the beat of the drums. Grass dancers wear outfits of brightly-colored yarn or fabric representing meadow grass.
The dancers are accompanied by a group of five to ten singers, collectively called “a drum.” They
sit around a large drum, which they beat in unison as they sing. Some singers may also stand behind. Traditionally all singers and drummers were male, but today many women sing and drum, and some groups are all female. Many of the songs do not have words, but consist entirely of syllables, called “vocables,” which convey the deep feeling and meaning of the song. Songs are sung four times in succession, as the number four is sacred to Indian culture and represents the four directions. The drumming and singing are the core of the powwow, providing a rhythmic pulse to the event.
Until the 20th century, non-Indians usually did not participate in powwows. But today, powwows are public events and open to all, providing an opportunity for Native Americans to share their culture and traditions. Non – Indians can enjoy the festivities, try new foods such as “Indian fry bread,” purchase beautiful handmade goods like jewelry of silver and turquoise, finely crafted drums and flutes, pottery, painted gourds, and traditional clothing. They can participate in some events and dances such as the
Round Dance or Blanket Dance. And they can learn about the rich heritage and present day lives of America’s first inhabitants.
The spirit of the powwow is a continuum in Indian life. It isn’t just for a few days in March. We live this spirit on a daily basis. It is why we have survived for so long. At one time we were a forgotten people, but I think we are getting stronger. From the powwow we gain strength as Indian people, individually and collectively, to go on into the [next] century.
—Linday Yardley Taos Pueblo Indian
reservation(s): n. a tract or parcel of land set aside for the use of a group or groups such as the Native American tribes lively: adj. active, fun, festive rodeo: n. a public performance and/or competition featuring such
activities as horse riding, bull riding, and calf roping spiritual: adj. relating to or affecting the spirit, often in a deeply religious sense
ritual(s): n. symbolic gestures to show respect, thanks, prayer, or blessing
protocol: n. a set of customs and regulations heritage: n. family, cultural, or ethnic background or line
healing: n. an action or activity meant to restore to health
Anglicize(d): adj. made more English-like in spelling,
pronunciation, custom, or manner
embody: v. to represent or contain fully
arbor: n. archway or other overhead structure
sacred: adj. holy; highly respected, usually in a religious
designate(d): v. appointed; chosen for a specific purpose or task
elaborate: adj. beautifully decorated; complex in detail regalia: n. special clothing or outfit worn for ceremonial purposes
vie(-ying): v. to try for or compete for
meticulously: adv. in a very careful and detailed manner
affiliation: n. association; connection
heirloom: n. cherished family treasure, such as jewelry,
that is passed down from generation to generation
jingle(-ing): adj. like the sound of a bell
shawl(s): n. long piece of cloth used for covering one’s
yarn: n. thread made of natural or synthetic fibers
collectively: adv. together as a group
unison: n. having one voice or sound
in succession: prep. phrase. one after another;
core: n. center; central part pulse: n. beat; heartbeat
turquoise: n. semi-precious stone of pale or dark green – blue, often used in Native American jewelry
gourd(s): n. vegetable related to the pumpkin that is dried, hollowed, and sometimes decorated inhabitant(s): n. person who lives in a specific area
arbor: n. tree
environment: n. the air, soil, and living things around us
territory: n. a large area of land; a district or region prairie: n. flat, grassy region of land pioneer(s): n. a person who settles in new territory advocate(d): v. to support; to argue strongly for an idea barren: adj. not capable of producing new life; desolate propose(d): v. to offer an idea orchard(s): n. groves of fruit or nut trees planted for the purpose of cultivation
incentive(s): n. a physical or emotional reward that pushes you toward a goal enthusiastically: adv. with great interest declare(d): v. to officially name
adopt(ed): v. to take up and make one’s own, as an idea; to vote to accept alternate: adj. available as another choice wide-scale: adj. covering a large area