National Native American Heritage Month

Dancers. . Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 6 Nov 2021.

November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time to honor and celebrate all Native Americans and their culture and contributions throughout history. It’s a month to be made aware of Native American history, heritage, and the oppression and struggles they have faced and continue to face. 

The annually celebrated month was created in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush and has been honored since. The web source National Congress of American Indians states, “NCAI participates in the DC Native Public Relations Roundtable, a group consisting of public relations professionals from national American Indian and Alaska Native organizations and agencies in the Washington, DC area. The group meets monthly to improve communication between groups and its primary function has been to create a more cohesive campaign for Native Heritage Month and to unify the month’s schedule of events.” However, anyone can celebrate and honor National Native American Heritage Month. 

A few main ways to honor the month include educating yourself and others about Native American heritage and history through visiting museums, reservations, webinars, and more. For instance, during 2020, many webinars discussing Native Americans were available throughout the month. The Library of Congress and National Archives are significant institutions that hold educational events regarding Native American history and culture. 

Additionally, another way to honor Native American Heritage Month is through decolonizing Thanksgiving meals. Many celebrate Thanksgiving with stereotypical Native American decorations and conversations on a day that, for Native Americans, reminisces European colonization that brought much tragedy to indigenous people. The newsource CNN states, “But many Native Americans consider it a “Day of Mourning,” pointing out the story overlooks how the introduction of European settlers spelled tragedy for indigenous communities…Some native groups, including United American Indians of New England, invite people to participate in “Day of Mourning” marches.” 

However, you can also honor National Native American Heritage Month by reading books written by Native American authors and seeking out Native American and Indigenous voices. Some Native American authors include Louise Erdrich, Stephen Graham Jones, Joy Harjo, Tommy Orange, and many more. Though their books may not all be about historical subjects, it’s important to uplift and appreciate Native American voices. You may also consider purchasing from Native American businesses or donating to Native American charities to celebrate. 

Regarding celebrating Native American heritage, you should be mindful of harmful stereotypes and not celebrate disrespectfully or offensively. For instance, it’s not honoring Native Americans to use Native artifacts with no respect to cultural value, use redface in any respect, fetishize Native American women, speak over Native American voices, culturally appropriate Native clothing, or erase the struggle and oppression Native American people face and have faced historically. The newsource TeenVogue says, “While I applaud the intention of the celebration, widespread ignorance on all things Native means that November is often replete with shocking instances of anti-Native prejudice, cultural appropriation, and the enforcing of hostile, negative, racist, misogynistic stereotypes about Native people.” Therefore, it’s crucial to be mindful when honoring Native American heritage due to the history of offensive behavior regarding their culture. 

Native American people have made many contributions, achievements, and more throughout history that deserve more than appreciation. We hope many will celebrate and honor Native American culture and history during National Native American Heritage Month and every month after. 

Some resources to use that have also been mentioned in the article: