Category: Institute

Date: November 14, 2023

November is Native American Heritage Month

November marks the commencement of National Native American Heritage Month, an occasion in the United States that acknowledges and celebrates the contributions, culture, and accomplishments of Native Americans. The commemorative month’s history dates back to the early 20th century and involves the efforts of several individuals, organizations, and government entities.

Efforts to honor and recognize Native Americans began as a private initiative in the early 20th century. In 1915, the American Indian Association, during its annual Congress meeting, approved a plan for an American Indian Day directed by Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, who proclaimed the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day.

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 later adopted similar days to honor Native Americans. 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed October 10-16 as “Native American Awareness Week.”

In 1986, Congress passed Public Law No. 99-471, which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986, as “American Indian Week.” In 1990, Congress passed Public Law No. 101-343, which authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

Since 1990, every U.S. President, except one, has issued annual proclamations designating November as National Native American Heritage Month. These proclamations recognize the contributions of Native Americans and encourage the people of the United States to learn more about their heritage and culture.

Congress chose November to honor Native Americans because it concludes their traditional harvest season and is generally a time of thanksgiving and celebration for them.

Today, National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated through various events, educational programs, and cultural activities that promote a better understanding of Native American history, traditions, and contemporary issues.

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Dr. Riley is an enrolled member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico. She has worked in the field of social work for over 23 years and is currently the Director of the Native American Social Work Studies Institute. Her passion is working with people and teaching and learning new things.

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