Native American Heritage Month

By McKenzie Schwark
Features Writer

November is Native American Heritage Month, and across the country it is a time to recognize, celebrate, and acknowledge the unique ancestry, traditions, and history of Native communities.

“Far too often in our founding era and in the centuries since, the promise of our Nation has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial,” President Joe Biden said in the proclamation naming November National Native American Heritage Month.

“During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the countless contributions of Native peoples past and present, honor the influence they have had on the advancement of our Nation, and recommit ourselves to upholding trust and treaty responsibilities, strengthening Tribal sovereignty, and advancing Tribal self-determination,” Biden said.

There are 574 federally recognized tribes within the U.S., according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and each tribe has its own culture and traditions. Many of those tribes exist in the Midwest, and this month is a particularly important time to recognize them.

Native American Heritage Month officially began in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush made the proclamation after Congress passed a resolution that designated November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month. In 1991, Congress passed another resolution indicating that every November will be proclaimed as “American Indian Heritage Month,” and since then, every sitting president has signed a proclamation. 18 years later, Congress passed the “Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009,” which designates the Friday following Thanksgiving Day of each year as “Native American Heritage Day.”

These proclamations shine a national spotlight on Indigenous communities across the U.S., and many large Native organizations join in to raise awareness and celebrate November.

North Dakota has especially been influenced by the Native community. The North Dakota tourism’s website has lots of recommendations of how to celebrate and immerse yourself in the state’s Native communities. The tribes most prominent in the state are the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA Nation); the Yanktonai, Sisseton, Wahpeton, Hunkpapa, and other Dakota/Lakota/Nakota (commonly known as Sioux) tribes; and the Chippewa and Metis, and their influence can be found throughout the Midwest.

If a trip to Bismarck isn’t quite feasible, there are plenty of other ways to give back, acknowledge, and celebrate this month and throughout the year. You might consider visiting a reservation or museum, reading a book, or watching a movie written by and about a Native person, or give to a Native-specific organization.

Although these opportunities to learn more about Native communities, celebrate their traditions, and give back are especially prominent this month, it’s important to keep this momentum going throughout the entire year. This month we encourage you to consider how you might continue this practice for 2022.