Native American Heritage Month has been federally recognized annually since 1990. It began as a one-day celebration before being expanded to one week, then finally, a full month.
This commemorative month represents a time to celebrate the rich, diverse traditions and contributions of Native/Indigenous peoples. It also represents an opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges they face both historically and contemporarily.
According to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), there are 574 federally recognized Nations and hundreds of sovereign tribal Nations[i]. For hundreds of years before European immigrants came to what would later become North America, Indigenous peoples inhabited the land and possessed an array of unique histories, languages, traditions, and beliefs.
How Can I Celebrate?
- Debunk Stereotypes: Check out these youth voices in “6 Misconceptions About Native American People.”
- Educate Yourself and Students: Explore Native Knowledge 360 (NK360). This is a collective that provides credible, vetted resources for educators and students. This includes, but is not limited to, virtual programming, age-appropriate academic materials, as well as professional learning opportunities with leading experts and activists/advocates.
- Decolonize Your Thanksgiving Dinner: The Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a friendly meal is one that is deeply engrained in school curricula. However, many Indigenous Americans understand it to be a day of mourning. The arrival of European settlers had tragic outcomes for Indigenous communities, who lost land, lives, and culture. More specifically, millions died due to starvation, novel diseases, and territorial conflict. Try having frank historical conversations and/or trying out Native dishes to challenge the dominant narrative.
Additional Ways to Celebrate
Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, and work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.