Governor Paul LePage has proclaimed June 21, 2012 as "Native American Veterans Day" to honor the 831 Native American Veterans living in Maine. June 21 was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of an important alliance forged between Chief Joseph Orono and George Washington in 1775.
"June 21 is a historically important, but a very little known date when on this day in 1775, soon after the Battle of Bunker Hill in the first phase of the American Revolution, Penobscot Chief Joseph Orono met with George Washington at Watertown and agreed that his tribe's warriors, as well as others in the Wabanaki Confederacy, would join forces with the Continental Army to fight a common enemy in the struggle for freedom," said Governor LePage.
According to estimates from the Census Bureau's figures for the year 2000, approximately 15% of Maine's Native American Population were either veterans or still on active duty -- the largest per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. Native Americans have served in every war since the American Revolution, either as allies or members of the American military.
Charles N. Shay, a decorated veteran and Penobscot Tribal Elder, was the driving force behind establishing June 21st as a day to recognize Native Americans' contributions to the US military. According to Shay, Maine is the first state in the country to recognize June 21 as Native American Veterans Day.
"June 21 is not a day that commemorates a specific battle, but is about remembering how Native Americans in Maine agreed to stand together with their non-native brothers and sisters in defense of freedom, and our nation" said Governor LePage.