Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month

Happy Native American Heritage Month! For around 100 years, there has been a push to honor the contributions, sacrifices, achievements, and historical/cultural legacy of the original inhabitants of this great land and their descendants. Now known as Native American Heritage Month, this is our time to celebrate and honor American Indian culture.


In 1900, Dr. Arthur Parker, a member of the Seneca Tribe, was one of the earliest advocates of a day honoring Native Americans. 15 years later, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Tribe member, rode horseback from state to state to gain approval for a day to honor Native Americans and their culture. In 1915 he presented the endorsement of 24 state governments that agreed to the White House. That same year, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association approved the plan for an American Indian day and the first one was held on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York although a national holiday was never proclaimed.

In 1976, the United States’ bicentennial year, Congress passed a resolution to proclaim a week in October as “Native American Awareness Week”. Since then, Congress and the President has observed a day, week, or month in honor of American Indian and Alaska Native people. In 1990, November, and each month of November thereafter, was officially declared “American Indian Heritage Month” by Congress As of 2009, Congress passed a House Joint Resolution that also designated the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving each year as “Native American Heritage Day”.


Ways to Celebrate

Of course, Native Americans celebrate their culture every day, but there are some fun, special things that you can do in November to celebrate even more! Here are some ideas to help commemorate the month:

  • Read a book about Native history or written by a Native American author!
    • We suggest:
      • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann about how researchers have come to previously unheard of conclusions about Native life before Columbus’s landing
      • Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale which is a collection of autobiographical essays that interweave personal experiences with portraits of relatives building up a tapestry of history and remembrance


  • Read a book about Native American myths to familiarize yourself with myths you already know or new ones you don’t know!
    • We suggest:
      • Native American Myths by Diana Ferguson which includes myths from the Pawnee, Iroquois, Algonquin, Inuit, Navajo, Sioux, Hopi and more tribes. Each myth reveals the richness and depth of Native American culture and traditions
      • Native American Stories by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac


  • Go see a lacrosse game!
    • Lacrosse can hail its origins back to all Eastern Woodlands Native Americans and some Plains Indian Tribes (Canada). Although modified by Europeans, the origins of lacrosse may have developed as early as the 12th century and played a significant role in tribal communities and spiritual life. Many of these games could last for days and include as many as 100 people to rotate and play on each team


  • Watch a film about Native Americans or starring American Indians!
    • We suggest:
      • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee about how American Indians were displaced as the US expanded west that is based upon a book of the same name by Dee Brown
      • The New World which depicts the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement and inspired by the historical figures of the Powatan Native American tribe, Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas, and Captain John Smith


  • Try a new recipe or a traditional recipe from a Native American cookbook!
    • We suggest:
      • Many of the recipes on look super tasty, they provide a history of Native food, and have recipes from many different Native tribes
      • The American Indian Health and Diet Project also has a lot of great ‘traditional’ indigenous recipes, including a delicious butternut squash soup that is perfect for the fall!


What are you planning on doing for Native American Heritage Month? Have any other fun ideas or maybe Powwows that are going on? Let us know in the comments below.