AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has proclaimed Thursday, June 21, as Native American Veterans Day in honor of the 831 Native American veterans living in Maine.

June 21 was chosen to honor Native Americans who served — and are serving — in the military because it is the anniversary of an important alliance forged between Penobscot 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,” LePage said.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, approximately 15 percent of Maine’s Native American population were veterans or 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 21 as a day to recognize Native Americans’ contributions to the U.S. military.

According to Shay, Maine is the first state in the country to recognize June 21 as Native American Veterans Day, which was observed for the first time in 2009.

“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,” LePage said.