Sunday, December 02, 2007

Indiana Day is Next Week, but Will Anyone Notice?

Are you ready for next week’s big celebration? Ok, so I’m being sarcastic. And, no, it has nothing to do with this month’s other big holiday, Christmas. December 11 is Indiana Admission Day, as will presumably be proclaimed by the governor.

When I was in the sixth grade, I remember being taught a subject called Indiana History. The whole course lasted only a couple of weeks and was part of our regular history class, except we used a different text.

I enjoyed the class. I liked learning about the corduroy roads that were built in the state back in the 1800s, or the fact that two of the nation's most important highways, the Michigan Road and the National Road, intersected in Indianapolis. That's one reason why Indiana was called the "Crossroads of America."

One of the things I learned in that sixth-grade history class was that Indiana became a state in 1816, on December 11. It took two attempts, but we finally made statehood.

It began in 1811 as a petition to Congress for admission. The original petition got lost in the shuffle due to the War of 1812. But then, in 1815 another petition was sent to Congress. That time, Congress acted and President Madison signed the enabling act in April of that year.

After the first Indiana Constitutional Convention in June of 1816, Indiana officially became a state on December 11, when Madison signed the Congressional resolution formally admitting Indiana into the Union.

Indiana's population at the time was only 63,000. Today, Indiana is still known as the Crossroads of America. Although in area it is the smallest state west of the Appalachians (except for Hawaii), it is an important state for manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation.

Unlike many other states, however, Indiana does not do much to commemorate its admission into the union. Some states take their admission day very seriously. Hawaii, for example, has declared it an official state holiday. And Nevada even holds a three-day celebration honoring its admission day.

Even though the governor is supposed to proclaim every December 11 as Indiana Day, few Hoosiers ever give it a thought. It will soon be Indiana Day again, but see if anyone notices.

For many years, from the 1960s up until 1991, Indiana Day did not officially exist, even though it was supposed to, as directed by the Indiana General Assembly in the 1920s. Former Gov. Evan Bayh began issuing the proclamation again in 1991 after a phone call from me to his staff reminded him of his legal obligations on the matter.

Since then, governors have been upholding the law by proclaiming Indiana Day. But the proclamation alone does nothing to make the day special to the state's citizens.

Indiana Day would have more meaning if more school children were required to take an Indiana History class. Some high schools offer the class, but only as an elective. It should be a required part of the curriculum of all high schools or middle schools. And students should be required to take it.

In addition, instead of requiring the governor to proclaim Indiana Day each year, the General Assembly should pass legislation permanently marking December 11 on the calendar as Indiana Day, not as a paid holiday, but as a day of recognition of Indiana's history. It’s part of our Hoosier heritage.

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