Connecting our world at UW Medicine

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. It celebrates the diverse cultures, traditions, histories and contributions of Indigenous peoples in the United States.

In Washington state there are 29 federally recognized tribes as well as other tribes that are not federally recognized, such as the Duwamish, Wanapum and Chinook. Nationally, there are over 550 federally recognized tribes. There are also large urban American Indian populations made of members of these many tribes. These communities are vibrant, thriving and diverse, and have made vital contributions and cultural impacts throughout our region and country.

Find out the history behind the month, how you can celebrate and resources to learn more.

Land acknowledgement

One way to honor the Native communities in this region is to educate ourselves about, acknowledge and respect the land we are on.

The land that we live and work on within the Puget Sound was first inhabited by the Coast Salish peoples. These include the tribes and bands of the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Tulalip, Snoqualmie and Suquamish Nations, who have lived and cared for the land since time immemorial.

It is also important to acknowledge that the city of Seattle is built on Coast Salish Lands, the homelands of the Duwamish and Suquamish people. In fact, Seattle is an Anglicized name for a leader of the Duwamish tribe Chief Si’ahl.

To acknowledge this land is to learn and recognize the lived history of Indigenous peoples, including the impact of colonialism and subsequent displacement, genocide, and erasure of Native communities and culture throughout our country’s history. Supporting Native land rights is a key connection to helping communities improve their health, life and continued culture.

History of Native American Heritage Month

The appeal for a formal recognition day for Native American peoples has been in the works since the early 1900s. The first state to recognize “American Indian Day” was New York in 1916.

In 1976 the first federal Native American heritage recognition week was authorized by President Gerald Ford, “Native American Awareness Week.”

Between 1976 and 1990, various presidents made proclamations for a day, week or month to recognize Native American heritage, but it didn’t happen every year or with consistency.

It wasn’t until 1991 that another resolution passed authorizing and requesting the president to proclaim the month of November 1991 and every November after as National Native American Heritage Month. George H.W. Bush signed the legislation and since, it’s been tradition for the president to send out a proclamation each November. Here’s the proclamation for this November signed by President Joe Biden.

In 2009, Congress passed the Native American Heritage Day Act and President Barack Obama signed legislation that established the Friday following Thanksgiving Day as “Native American Heritage Day.”

This year, President Biden was the first president to proclaim Oct. 11 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a significant move in refocusing the federal holiday from Christopher Columbus to Native and Indigenous communities.

Throughout the heritage month, events, dedications and celebrations of Native resilience and culture honor the history and the present and future contributions of Native communities.

Native American Heritage Month resources

The following resources have been curated for the celebration of and continued education on Native American communities. Try reading, listening or visiting at least one resource a week during the month of November.

 

Photo Caption: “The Troll II” by Alison Marks, Tlingit, Burke Museum.

Recent Posts