Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month

At the beginning of the 20th century, an effort to recognize the significant contributions of the first Americans to the establishment and growth of the United States has now become a month designated for this purpose. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month, now referred to as Native American Heritage Month.

Leaders of various tribes had instituted various proclamations through the Boy Scouts of America and the Congress of the American Indian Association, and the first American Indian Day in a state was declared by the governor of New York in May of 1916. Several states celebrate the 4th Friday in September for this purpose, and other states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but until President Bush’s approval of a joint resolution designating November for a month of recognition, no national acknowledgement was marked.

The National Women’s History Museum provides several resources highlighting the contributions of Native American women as leaders, artists, storytellers, and advocates. Here are a few from its resource toolkit:

  • Native American heritage activist and pioneering film actor Lilian (“Red Wing”) St. Cyr used her voice to advocate  for the establishment of a National Indian Day federal holiday to bring attention to Native American welfare. November is now federally designated each year as an observance and celebration of Native American heritage.

  • Over 200 years ago, the U.S. signed a treaty with the Cherokee Nation, granting them representation in Congress. However, this position was never filled until Kimberly Teehee entered the scene. A mentee of Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, Teehee became the first Cherokee Nation delegate in the House of Representatives in 2019.
  • Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). In 2019, Harjo became the first Native American United States Poet Laureate in history and is only the second poet to be appointed for three terms. In addition to her many books of poetry, she has written several books for young audiences and released seven award-winning music albums.
  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet Secretary in a long-overdue appointment to the Department of Interior by President Biden. Secretary Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a state party after running for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in 2014.
  • Football has been forever altered for the better thanks to the activism of Navajo social worker Amanda Blackhorse, who served as the named plaintiff in the 2006 lawsuit Blackhorse et. al. v. ProFootball, Inc., and who is one of many Native American activists who deserves credit for the Washington Football Team’s recent name change.

To learn more about the remarkable women whose role in respecting the heritage of Native Americans and their contributions to our “her”story, go to the National Women’s History Museum webpage.

Chrysalis also has been learning and sharing in the work of many native and indigenous-led efforts and highlighted the work the importance of the recognition of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at our first Chrysalis Conversations event of 2022. To learn more about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, please visit Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA | (