In 1915, Red Fox James of the Blackfoot Nation rode his horse state to state to seek support for a national day officially recognizing First Nation people. He was successful in securing the endorsement of 24 state governments and presented these to the White House, but no such day was proclaimed. Following over 70 years of efforts by Indigenous Americans, the United States government formally designated November “National American Indian Heritage Month” in 1990. Since the first proclamation was approved, the name of the month has varied a bit and the official site bears the title “Native American Heritage Month”.
This recognition is necessary and long overdue in no small part due to the wholesale efforts on the part of the U.S. government to destroy and deface historical and sacred monuments, rituals, cultural items, and traditions of Indigenous American peoples. The destruction of culture in concert with the takeover of Native land, kidnapping and miseducation of Native children, and genocide on First Nation peoples were in no uncertain terms an effort to erase the history of this country that preceded colonization. To this day, most people gazing upon the sacred Six Grandfathers Mountain on Lakota Sioux land would instead identify it as “Mount Rushmore”.
Some activities you could undertake to engage with Native American History Month include seeking reading materials by Native authors or documentaries about Native American culture and history, making a donation to a Native-run organization working to preserve heritage or improve quality of life for Indigenous Americans, support efforts to end racist Native mascots in sports, buy from Native businesses this holiday season, learn who the land you live on belonged to, and share positive representations of Native people.
8 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving
Learn the real history: Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, serves as a reminder of the genocide and violence Native communities experienced and continue to experience. Learn about Thanksgiving and early colonial history from Native perspectives.
Decolonize your dinner: Native chefs have created a culinary movement with the goal of getting Indigenous people to honor their ancestors through their dietary choices. Bring Native American dishes to the dinner table.
Listen to indigenous voices:It was the Wampanoag People, the People of the First Light, that encountered the Pilgrims when they arrived in Turtle Island from Europe in 1620.
#StandwithMashpee: The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are calling on members of Congress to help “protect the statute of reservation” after the Trump Administration overturned an Obama era decision that could see their land taken from them.
Celebrate native people
Buy native this holiday
Share positive representations of native people
End racist native mascots in sports: There are still more than 1,000 high school, university and professional teams that continue to have Native American mascots. Though changes have been made at the high school and college levels, at the professional level there has been virtually no change.