About Native American Heritage Month

(Photo courtesy of Avila University)


The following information is provided by the Library of Congress website. What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

 Here are ten suggestions for the month long celebration of Native American Heritage Month!


1. Check out the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex.

2. Watch the Native Cinema Showcase, November 12-18, 2021  

The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year’s showcase focuses on Native people boldly asserting themselves through language, healing, building community, and a continued relationship with the land. Activism lies at the heart of all these stories.

3. Try a new recipe! 3 Sisters Bowl with Hominy, Beans and Squash

Try one, or all of Chef Sean Sherman’s (Sioux Chef) top recipes and share the meal with some friends and family.

4. Support a Native American Non Profit

Why not make the month even more meaningful by bringing awareness to the important work Native American non-profits are doing across the nation? Many focus on helping and uplifting Native Americans and their communities in various ways. 

5. Support a Native American Fashion Designer by purchasing from their website!

Many talented Native American artists have incorporated their Native heritage into their modern day designs, some even taking a stand for social justice within their work. Show your support and take a few minutes to browse their online stores. Or, shop a local artist and make an early Christmas gift purchase.


6. Binge on the Essential Indigenous Movies From North America

For over a century, Native Americans have been the objects of film, their likeness projected onto screens, capturing the world’s attention with their buckskinned form, and giving John Wayne something to do with his career. But it wasn’t until they moved behind the camera, becoming producers, writers, and directors, that they truly became subjects of great works of cinema. – Kerry Potts (Ojibway of mixed heritage)

7. Read a book from a Native American author or about the true Native American History

Use Native American Heritage Month as a starting place to read more stories by indigenous authors and about Native American history. Search out Native authors who are focused on telling the true history of Native Americans in our country.

8. Learn about the First Nations of Montana

Produced by the Montana Department of Commerce, this video provides a brief glimpse of the people and ways of Montana’s Tribal Nations.

9. Learn the facts of Native Heritage Month

The origins of the month began with Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, who called on Americans to reflect on Native American experiences in the early 20th century.

10. Decolonize Thanksgiving – Read and Share these articles:

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