Five ways to celebrate Native Americans today and everyday
National Native American Heritage Month
What is Native American Heritage Month?
November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to honor and recognize the indigenous peoples of this land. The celebration of Indigenous cultures began as a week-long celebration in 1986, when President Reagan proclaimed the week of November 23-30, 1986, as "American Indian Week." Every President since 1995 has issued annual proclamations designating the month of November as the time to celebrate the cultures, accomplishments, and contributions of Native American and Alaska Native communities.
- 2022 Washington State Native American Heritage Month proclamation
- 2022 Native American Heritage Month presidential proclamation
The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.
Why is it important?
Throughout our history, Native Americans have been an important part of the foundations of Washington State and the nation, both economically and socially. The tribes and Indian health care providers (IHCPs) in our state are leaders in exercising their sovereignty and creating strength-based approaches grounded in culturally attuned services.
Yet, they have often been overlooked, stereotyped, marginalized, dismissed, or misunderstood.
Heritage Month is an opportune time to learn about tribes and IHCPs, and to raise a general awareness about the unique programs they have built within their communities.
What can you do to celebrate?
This is an excellent time to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ brilliance, honor and acknowledge truth in history, recognize whose land we are on, and work towards true allyship. Here are some ideas on how to honor and celebrate Indigenous Peoples today, and every day.
1. Decolonize Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition and time to spend with family. It also unfortunately has a history of supporting harmful stereotypes of native people and historical inaccuracies.
The decolonization movement simply seeks to keep the positive traditions of Thanksgiving while turning away from hurtful stereotypes of Native Americans. Thanksgiving dinner, family, gratitude, community, and generosity are emphasized while acknowledging Native American history and the contributions indigenous people have made to developing today’s foods.
Interested in learning more? Read and share these articles!
- The First Thanksgiving: Separating Myth from Fact by Ruth Hopkins, Dakota and Lakota writer at Teen Vogue
- Decolonizing Thanksgiving and Reviving Indigenous Relationships to Food by NDN Collective
- The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I’ve Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday by Sean Sherman, the ‘Sioux Chef’
2. Try a new recipe inspired by native cuisine
If you enjoy cooking, you can take your support of the decolonization movement a step further and incorporate native cuisine in your Thanksgiving meal this year with inspiration from these native chefs.
Also be sure to watch “Traditional Coast Salish Foods” and read “Reviving Traditional Coast Salish Food Knowledge” by the Burke Museum and learn how local Coast Salish tribes continue to practice carry on traditional food knowledge carried through generations.
3. Honor Indigenous stories
In addition to deepening your knowledge and awareness, it’s important to incorporate more Indigenous voices into your life, too.
Native journalism and publications
- First Nations Development Institute: 10 Featured Books for 2020
- Book Marks Reviews: 12 Books by Indigenous Writers
- Buzzfeed News: 14 Contemporary Books by Native American Authors
- Electric Literature: Decolonize Your Bookshelf with these Books by Native American Writers
- Open Education Database: 20 Native American Authors You Need to Read
- Sea Howl Bookshop: Indigenous Authors & History
- Tribal Maps: Children's Books by School Age Level
- Native American Journalism Association
- Indian Country Today
- Native News Online
- Indian & Cowboy
- All My Relations
- NDN Collective Podcasts
- The Native Seed Pod
- Coffee & Quaq
- Red Nation Podcast
Films and theatre
- American Indian Film Festival
- 4 New Indigenous Films by and about Native Women by Indian Country Today
- The Upstander Project: Dawnland, First Light, Dear Georgina, and Bounty
- 8 Essential Films of the Native American Experience by Corinne Rice
- 10 Contemporary Native American Playwrights You Should Know
- Project HOOP - A national, multi-disciplinary initiative to advance Native theater
- Native Voices - A collection of First Nations voices as they share their experiences in (North) American theatre making
- Spiderwoman Theater, Brooklyn, NY - The first Native American women’s theater troupe
- New Native Theatre, St. Paul, MN
- Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre, Seattle, WA
4. Attend an event
There are plenty of local and virtual events happening all throughout the month of November celebrating indigenous peoples. Here are just a few of them:
- November 4, 2022 - Join Oglala Lakota Chef Sean Sherman as he shares his journey of discovering, reviving, and reimagining Native cuisine on The (R)evolution of Indigenous Foods of North America.
- November 11, 2022 - Attend “Veterans Day: Stories From Native American Veterans,” a virtual event at the Washington State History Museum.
- Year round - Visit “Burke Museum: Northwest Native Art Exhibit” featuring modern and historic basketry, carvings and multimedia art by six Pacific Northwest Native women artists, along with permanent displays including a 35-foot canoe, totem poles and more.
- November 18-25, 2022 - Native Cinema Showcase: The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. By embracing oral histories, knowledge, and ancestral lands, Indigenous peoples are creating films to better understand the past and imagine a new way of thinking for the future.
- November 25, 2022 - Native Voices with Storyteller Dovie Thomason: Storyteller Dovie Thomason shares traditional stories about animals and hero/tricksters that provide a clearer understanding of the values and cultures of the diverse First Nations of North America. Thomason draws on her own Lakota/Kiowa Apache tradition and experience working with culture-bearers of other Native nations.
5. Learn something new
Take a few minutes and dive into a new topic on indigenous peoples via these TED Talks: