November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans and to acknowledge their valued contributions.
In his National Native American Heritage Month proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group. They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward.”
This month, and all year long, take the time to educate, advocate, and raise greater awareness for the rich traditions and histories of Indigenous communities.
The history of Native American Heritage Month
The journey to recognition was not an easy one. It started with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a descendent of the Seneca tribe and the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who was one of the first proponents of an American Indian Day back in 1915. His efforts, combined with the relentless work of Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, led to the declaration of the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day by the governor of New York.
Years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Since then, this commemoration has evolved into what we now know as Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to educate the public about tribes, raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and honor the vital role they play in enriching our nation.
From the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the U.S. Constitution to the Navajo Code Talkers’ contribution during World War II, the impact of Native Americans is deeply woven into the fabric of American history.
Honoring the vital role of Native Americans
Celebrating Native American Heritage Month can come in many forms. One of the most meaningful ways is through education. Take the time to learn about the different tribes, their histories, and their contributions. Many museums, libraries, and educational institutions like ASU offer exhibits, discussions, and resources during this month.
Participating in cultural activities is another great way to honor this month. Many communities host powwows, dance exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events. These gatherings are not only fun but also provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural diversity of Native Americans.
Consider supporting Native American businesses and artists to show respect and appreciation. By purchasing Native American art, jewelry, food, and other goods, you’re helping to sustain their traditions and support their communities.
Learn about the important contributions of barrier-breaking Native Americans who continue to shape our society, lead their communities, and impact our culture today. Research Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first female Native American to travel to space or Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who became the first Indigenous Cabinet member in U.S. history, among countless others.
Lastly, advocacy is a powerful way to celebrate. Stand with Native communities in their fight for recognition, rights, and respect. Advocate for policies that protect their lands, cultures, and identities. Arizona State University has taken steps to increase awareness & appreciation, as well as motivate advocacy, through the ASU Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, recognizing its campuses are situated on the homelands of many indigenous communities, many of whom continue to live in the area.
Continue to celebrate, learn, and honor
Native American Heritage Month is a reminder of the enduring and resilient spirit of Native people. The richness of their cultures, the depth of their wisdom, and the strength of their spirit continue to inspire us all. In honoring their heritage, we enrich our own understanding and become more compassionate and informed citizens.
This November, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate, learn, and honor the first people of this land. Let’s remember that every day is a good day to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures and contributions of Native Americans.