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Native American Heritage Month Library Guide

This guide brings awareness to celebrate, and recognize the many contributions made by Native people in the United States—Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians—along with other Indigenous peoples in our country from across the globe.

A brief History

 

National Native American Month started off as an effort to get a day of appreciation and acknowledgment for the unique contributions made by the first Americans for the growth and establishment of the United States. The effort has now resulted in a whole month being celebrated for that purpose. Dr. Arthur C. Parker was one of the first supporters of having an American Indian Day. He was a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. He was also the one to convince the Boy Scouts of America to create a day for the Native Americans — the Boy Scouts adopted this day for three days. The first time American Indian Day was declared was in May 1916. In 1990, a joint resolution was approved by George H.W. Bush, which called for November to be named National American Heritage Month. Declarations like these have been issued since 1994, such as Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

 

 

Historical Highlights

About National Native American Heritage Month

November is designated as National Native American Heritage Month. This observance commemorates the history, heritage, and culture of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. It is during this month we acknowledge the vast achievements of America’s original indigenous people. What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the contributions of the many intertribal cultures, as well as to educate everyone about the rich history, heritage, art, and traditions of the original American peoples made to the establishment and growth of the United States, has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

In 1914, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians; he was also known as Red Fox Skiuhushu. In December of the following year, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House, however, there is no record of such a national day being proclaimed during that time in our history. On the second Saturday of May 1916, the governor of New York declared the first “American Indian Day” on record. Several states followed with celebrations held on the fourth Friday in September of the same year. Several states designated Columbus Day as “Native American Day,” but it continued to be a day observed without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed a proclamation authorizing “American Indian Week,” and in 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 "National American Indian Heritage Month." From 1990 onward, presidential proclamations have been issued annually to celebrate the heritage and culture of Native Americans.

Today, 28 states and many cities, rivers, and lakes have names derived from Native American heritage. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are people having origins in any of the original peoples of North, South, and Central America, and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. According to the U.S. Census, there were 5.2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives living in the U. S. in 2010; 7.1 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives living in the U. S. in 2020; and there are projected to be 10.1 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives living in the U. S. by July 2060.

Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have a unique relationship with the federal government due to historic conflict and subsequent treaties. National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated with community gatherings and festivals and government and educational activities. We encourage you to learn more about the traditions and contributions of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives in education, art, literature, government, sports, science, and technology past and present.

 

History of Native California

Celebrating the Native American Heritage Month

There are a number of ways in which you can participate in Native American Heritage Month, including paying a visit to one of the reservations or taking a trip to your local museum. You can also support native-owned businesses and charities.

Click through for more informative and interactive experiences:

  • Learn about Native art, culture, and community through videos
  • Explore virtual exhibits and collections provided by Native American Heritage Month's website