November is Native American Heritage Month, or American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. According to census.gov, the official celebration of Native American heritage was first defined as a single event in 1916 after a member of the Blackfeet Nation, named Red Fox James, rode horseback across 24 state lines to get approval for the first American Indian Day.
It wasn’t until a congressional resolution signed by the Federal government in 1990 that officially designated the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month (later referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month or Native American Heritage Month).
In honor of Red Fox James’ efforts, and all those following, this month is all about joining in the effort to provide a platform for Native American voices to be heard, communities respected, and our shared history acknowledged. It’s a chance to get informed and involved by sharing traditions, art, music, and educating the public on Native American history and contemporary life.
Why is this so important?
Native American culture and contributions have played a significant role in shaping American culture through discoveries and inventions still in use around the world today.
Most Indigenous languages are endangered, and if we fail to preserve them, we risk losing the spoken word and connections to deep ancestral knowledge and traditions.
So how can you help? There are plenty of fun and exciting ways to participate in Native American Heritage Month; here are three to get you started celebrating this important observance.
> Be informed
Initiatives take place from coast to coast — choose a level of involvement that’s right for you, even if it means you’re at home catching up on the latest Sherman Alexie novel (or indulging in a few of these staff picks by North American Indigenous authors!). The key is to learn about Native American heritage through engagement and information.
Are you more of a resourceful DIY type than a program attendee? More power to you. There are plenty of grassroots ways to celebrate. For instance, if you’re planning a future trip to D.C., put the National Museum of the American Indian on your list of sights.
If you're planning a road trip, reference this map to better understand which Indigenous tribes reside, or have resided, in regions along your journey. Make sure to scope out some dining spots around the country serving Native American cuisine or places to explore Native American art, goods, and cultural performances — take it all in!
> Get involved
You can also check out the official National Native American Heritage Month events calendar to find celebrations around you. Simply search for ‘Native American Heritage Month’ events in your state or city to find local programs hosted by colleges, libraries, area tribes, and more.
You can also engage with Native American heritage in your own community by seeking out exhibits and events happening within your reach. Check local art museums to ask if they have any programs or special exhibits planned in honor of Heritage month, or tap into your community’s local Indian American association to find out if they have heritage celebrations or cultural performances on the calendar. By opting for direct involvement, you will learn more, have fun, and walk away with some incredible memories.
> Talk the talk
Speaking of direct involvement, why not try to learn a Native American language?
We’ve been working directly with tribal leaders to develop and maintain our free Cherokee and Potawatomi language courses. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, now’s the perfect time to log on and start learning.
Looking for a little more information about the Bodwéwadmimwen (Potawatomi) or ᏣᎳᎩ (Cherokee) languages before getting started? Just go to our Endangered and Indigenous Languages page to learn more, then set up your free Mango profile and get started in a matter of minutes. (You can also check out our blog post to learn how we developed our Cherokee course and why it matters.)
Be sure to connect with us on @MangoLanguages to catch more of our Native American Heritage Month promotions! In the meantime, why not check out one of our free Indigenous language courses today?
How do you support Native American heritage?
Leave some links or suggestions below!