What is Native American Heritage Month?
November has been officially declared as Native American Heritage Month, an opportune time to reflect on Indigenous history and look forward to future reconciliation efforts. This month is a period dedicated to celebrating the diverse traditions and cultures of Indigenous people, while also acknowledging the history of the country, their contributions, and the colonial-caused tragedies that took place in order to form North America. Native American Heritage month is also an appropriate time to participate in outreach and educational efforts to bring more awareness to the history behind the land we stand on today.
The Story Behind Native American Heritage Month
In 1986, President Reagan declared the first week of November to be “American Indian Week,” and subsequently, every President since 1995 has acknowledged November to be a time to celebrate Indigenous culture, accomplishments, and contributions gifted to us by Native Americans and Alaska Natives. It’s worth noting that in 1990, President George Bush was the one to officially declare and commemorate November as National American Heritage Month, which soon thereafter became referred to as Native American Heritage Month.
Initiatives Happening in the US
More recently, President Joe Biden has issued an official proclamation naming November 2021 as National Native American Heritage Month. He acknowledged that this is a time to celebrate the plethora of contributions from Native people, both in the past and present, while also recommitting ourselves to uphold our treaty and reconciliation responsibilities.
In the US, there are celebrations happening widespread across the nation, all focused on celebrating the vibrancy, richness, and beauty of Native heritage. In DC, for example, there are quite a few initiatives. The National Museum of the American Indian is offering a film screening experience for their viewers, more details on the showcase can be found on this schedule. The Library of Congress is also hosting a “Prints & Photographs Virtual Orientation” which will feature images relating to the history and culture of American Indians.
Ways to Celebrate
To celebrate this month, there are many different activities and materials you can engage with to honor Indigenous history! Examples include:
Learning more about tribal communities in your area is an excellent way to connect with and recognize the impact that history has had on local communities. Watching movies and documentaries produced by Native Americans is another great way to celebrate the month, while also supporting Indigenous artists and learning more at the same time.
Following Native Americans
Whether on news outlets, Instagram, or TikTok, there are a plethora of Indigenous creators that take time to produce content that sheds light on the history as well as the rich traditions of Indigenous people.
A favorite of ours is Shina Novalinga, a content creator who is one of the few from her Indigenous tribe to bring Inuit throat singing to the spotlight! You can find Shina Novalinga here on TikTok!
Another relevant way to honour Indigenous culture and history is to visit sites such as museums, heritage centres, and historical buildings that are dedicated to honoring Native Americans.
Last but Not Least
Getting involved in organizations with a purpose is an impactful way to make a long-term difference in the community. Whether you are joining an organization that provides mentorship to young Indigenous youth, are part of a venture capital fund to support rising Indigenous entrepreneurs, or are on a board of directors to influence decision making, these are all sustainable actions that will help to advance reconciliation and pave the way to a better future, one step at a time!