November marks the celebration of Native American History month, a time where we come together and celebrate Indigenous culture, accomplishments and people in the Americas.
For almost 100 years, Americans both Indian and non-Indian have advocated for a permanently designated place on the calendar to honor the contributions, achievements, sacrifices, and cultural and historical legacy of the original inhabitants of what is now the United States and their descendants: the American Indian and Alaska Native people.
The quest for a national honoring of Native Americans began in the early 20th century as a private effort. As far back as the late 1970s, Congress has enacted legislation and subsequent presidents have issued annual proclamations designating a day, a week or a month to celebrate and commemorate the nation’s American Indian and Alaska Native heritage.
In 2009, Congress passed and the president signed legislation that established the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day of each year as “Native American Heritage Day.” This designation led to November being National Native American Heritage month.
Whether you identify as being Native American or not, there are several ways in which we can take the time to educate ourselves and celebrate the culture of Indigenous peoples. Here are some of the ways we can celebrate this Native American History month:
Learn the Facts
While there have been vast improvements in sharing the accurate histories of Native American people, it’s still easy to run into misinformation. One of the best ways to learn about Native peoples is to listen to Native peoples. Whether you’re reading books by Indigenous authors, watching documentaries curated by Native American directors or following Native content creators on social media; these are all fantastic ways to give yourself the most accurate information. Some resources to consider include:
- Native-land.ca is an interactive map of tribal boundaries around the world. You can use this to discover what tribes are native to your home address.
- An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (non-fiction book)
- We Shall Remain by Benjamin Bratt (documentary series)
Utilize Native Businesses and Organizations
One of the best ways that you can support Native communities is through supporting Native businesses and organizations. This Native American Heritage month, try substituting a product, service or meal you would purchase from a major retailor and purchase from a Native American- owned business instead. This can look like:
- Eating at a Native American-owned restaurant
- Visiting a museum, exhibit or art gallery showcasing the work of Native Americans
- Purchasing products from Indigenous-owned businesses
- Utilizing services from Indigenous-owned businesses
Or you could donate your money or time to grassroots organizations, nonprofits and charities working to improve the lives of and educate others on the issues concerning Native communities. Some great organizations include:
- The Native American Heritage Association: Helps families in need living on reservations in South Dakota and Wyoming
- The Native American Rights Fund (NARF): Providing legal resources
- Indigenous Women Rising: Providing healthcare to Indigenous women
- National Indian Child Welfare Association: Eliminating child abuse and neglect, strengthening families
- Honor the Earth: A campaign run by Native communities that works on environmental protection projects
- The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES): Dedicated to increasing indigenous representation in the STEM fields
- Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS): Providing resources to obtain an education and career in the STEM field
Show Your Support
If you are unable to use monetary means this Native American Heritage month, there are still plenty of free ways that you can show your support. These include:
- Streaming movies and television shows starring and directed by Indigenous talent
- Listening to music from Indigenous artists
- Sharing reliable infographics and donation links for Native communities on your social media accounts
- Keep up-to-date with the latest news surrounding Native communities.
- Have a conversation with your friends and family about Native American history
- Follow Native American activists on social media
Whether you are Native American or not, take the time this November to learn, support and celebrate the Native American communities in your area.
Sources: Wikipedia, GoodGoodGood, Impactful Ninja, U.S. Department of Interior Indian Affairs