Celebrated every year in the month of November, Native American Heritage Month allows us to recognize and celebrate the history, traditions, and contributions made by Indigenous people. While it didn’t become a nationally recognized observance until 1990, the idea first took root back in the early 1900s.
We can credit Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, for getting the ball rolling on the month-long recognition we see today. Working as the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York, he worked with the Boy Scouts of America to set aside “First Americans Day,” which they did for three consecutive years.
In 1915, a formal plan for the concern of American Indian Day was approved at the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting. That same year, the president of the association, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, issued a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day.
After a few years, in 1986, President Ronald Regan transitioned the one-day holiday to a week-long observation, proclaiming November 23-30 as American Indian Week. But in 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of November to be National American Indian Heritage Month (also referred to as Native American Heritage Month), according to the National Native American Heritage Month website.
The month gave us the opportunity to delve into, learn about, and appreciate Native American history and culture. So we thought we’d share some ways to recognize the culture and get involved—in November and beyond.
Despite constituting only 2.5% of the total U.S. population, Native Americans hold a pivotal position in the nation’s history. Yet their contributions have been largely overshadowed and often omitted from historical narratives.
Take this month as an opportunity to educate yourself on the struggles and challenges Indigenous people have and continue to face. There are many resources available online and in libraries. You can also visit a Native American museum or cultural center.
Dive into Native American Cinema and Literature
There are many great books and movies about Native Americans. Some popular books include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and There There by Tommy Orange. Some popular movies include Smoke Signals and Dances with Wolves.
Donate to Native-American Nonprofits
There are so many Native American charities that you can support. Some popular charities include the American Indian College Fund, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Native American Rights Fund.
Support Native-American Owned Businesses
Here are some of our favorite Native-owned businesses and organizations that you can support. Check out below:
Kotah Bear is a retail company offering a wide range of handmade jewelry, blankets, robes, and more, all crafted by Navajo & Pueblo artisans.
Owners Kotah and Tessie are both members of the Diné tribe who were inspired to create their business when they were frequently asked to bring back native pieces of jewelry. Their website reads, “We quickly realized that supporting Native American artisans, being surrounded by beautiful items, and meeting new friends are things we are both very passionate about! We decided Kotah’s childhood nickname ‘Kotah Bear’ would be a perfect name for this company founded in 2013.”
“B. Yellowtail is a Native American-owned fashion brand with a passion for culture sharing through design,” founder and designer Bethany Yellowtail said on Instagram. According to the brand’s website, Yellowtail was driven by Bethany’s desire to see herself and her communities authentically and equitably represented in mainstream fashion. B. YELLOWTAIL has become a leading voice.
Launched in 2019 by Cece Meadows, Prados Beauty has worked “to bring awareness, amplification and collaboration with other Native and Indigenous artists through cosmetics,” according to their site.
From skin care to blush and eyeshadow palettes, Prados Beauty has it all. In 2022, the beauty brand was recognized as one of Allure magazine’s ‘Best of Beauty.’
Urban Native Era is a wide-ranging, unisex clothing brand founded in 2012 by Joey Montoya who wanted to “increase the visibility of Indigenous Peoples through social media,” according to the brand’s website.
Releasing its first set of shirts in 2013, “UNE crafts minimal yet powerful designs to create timeless garments. Made for everyone.”
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