November is National Native American Heritage Month (NNAHM). The observance celebrates all Indigenous peoples, including American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians. The goal is to focus attention on their rich and varied cultures, traditions, history, and societal contributions.
The History of Native American Heritage Month
Today’s celebration of National Native American Heritage Month was a long time in the making. Many credit Dr. Arthur C. Parker for having the vision to first advocate for an observance. Dr. Parker, a Seneca, was director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day to honor the nation’s Indigenous peoples.
In 1915, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe and Director of the American Indian Association took action. He called for a nationwide day of observance on the second Saturday of May. Thereafter, states like Illinois celebrated the fourth Friday in September as “American Indian Day.” Decades later, in 1976, a congressional resolution established Native American Awareness Week. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution of Congress. It declared November of that year “National American Indian Heritage Month.”
In 2009, a Presidential Proclamation designated November as “National Native American Heritage Month.” And it has been celebrated as such every November since.
Observing Native American Heritage Month
There are many ways to learn more about Native American cultures and lifestyles during November. There are events to attend, museums to visit, and virtual tours to experience.
Attend Area Events
Attend local events celebrating NNAHM. For example, in Lake Forest, IL, there’s the Native American Artisan and Craft Fair. It is scheduled for the first weekend of November. The following weekend, the DuPage County Fairgrounds hosts the 26th annual Harvest Pow Wow.
Extend an invitation
Invite a local Indigenous group to present information to your organization. Learn about their culture, ancestral homeland, and/or current way of life. Finally, don’t forget to look to your area’s universities for NNAHM special events, including virtual tours.
Learn more about Arizona’s 22 sovereign tribal nations at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Twelve galleries display more than 40,000 items, including 1,200 Hopi katsina dolls. At Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona, check out an ongoing exhibit, “Native Peoples of the Colorado Plateau.”
Window Rock, AZ, is the capital of the Navajo Nation and the home of its 54,000 sq ft museum. The Hopi Cultural Center is on Second Mesa. Some Hopi communities are among the longest-inhabited settlements on the continent.
Chicago’s renowned Field Museum partnered with Indigenous groups to debut a renovation of its Native North America Hall. Visit “Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories.” Also, observe contemporary art, poetry, photography, and historical objects.
Take a virtual field trip at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) website. The NMAI maintains locations in Washington D.C. and New York City. Exhibits celebrate various tribes through art, reenactments, musical events, artifacts, and more. The Smithsonian offers a virtual tour of two exhibits, “Creation’s Journey,” and “All Roads are Good.” Since the tour makes extensive use of Apple’s VR technology, either Quicktime 3.0 or 4.0 are required.
Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts can be great conversation starters. Check out Native American podcasts focusing on contemporary issues, history, culture, and comedy. In the classroom, include curricula regarding tribal legacies. The University of Oregon lists materials of interest to students from early childhood through secondary education.
Seek out Native American Food and Restaurants
You can also observe Native American Heritage Month through Indigenous cuisine.
Ketapanen Kitchen in Chicago, IL – Chef Walks First (Jessica Paemonekot) is the executive chef and owner of Ketapanen Kitchen. It is Chicagoland’s only Native American catering enterprise. In the Menominee language, “Ketapanen” is an expression of love. Chef Jessica studied at Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts. Her mission is to “bring Indigenous Cuisine to the forefront of Chicago’s culinary scene.” This November, the Bistro at the Field Museum features Ketapanen Kitchen’s menu.
Kai in Chandler, AZ – In the Pima language, “kai” means “seed.” The Sheraton Grand at White Horse Pass is the home of Kai. It is Arizona’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurant. The menu pays homage to both the Pima and Maricopa tribes. Partake of memorable entrees like grilled tenderloin of tribal buffalo with smoked corn puree. Conclude your dining experience with squash air cake or chia seed chocolate tarts. Much of Kai’s produce comes from the Gila River Indian Community.
Support Native-Owned Businesses and Nonprofits
There are many ways to support Native-owned enterprises. For example, decorate your living space with home goods and textiles made by Native-owned businesses. Or, give them as gifts. Insider lists online marketplaces featuring Native American products. For blankets, pillows, and towels, consider Mahota Textiles, Eighth Generation, or Indigo Arrows.
Your company or organization can work toward a more inclusive workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor suggests best practices for achieving that very goal. Network with some of the 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Seek out students pursuing post-secondary education. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) helps Native-owned businesses.
Look for ways to contribute your time or other resources through dozens of relevant non-profit organizations at NativeWeb.org. For more ways to support Native-owned enterprises, get in touch with one of the national organizations.