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Native American and Alaskan Native Heritage Month

Jicarilla Maiden

Native American and Alaskan Native Heritage Month began as a concerted effort at the turn of the century to recognize significant contributions made by the first Americans to U.S. culture and its growth and ultimately resulted in the the month of November being designated for that purpose.

Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, New York, was one of the first advocates of an American Indian Day. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the "First Americans," which they did for three years. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association approval a plan to nationally recognize American Indian Day; its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge issued a proclamation on September 28, 1915, declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day. More importantly, the proclamation contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before Coolidge issue his proclamation, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode on horseback from state to state, seeking endorsements for a day honoring Indians. On December 14, 1915, these endorsements from 24 state governments were presented to the White House, but unfortunately, no record exists of such a national day being proclaimed.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Since 1994, similar proclamations have been issued by the federal government.


Image credit: Jicarilla Maiden, North American Indian Photography of Edward Curtis (Smithsonian Institute)

Famous People in Native American and Alaskan Native History

Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke, an Ojibwe Indian, is a longtime environmentalist, feminist, and indigenous rights activist. She also ran for Vice President as nominee under the Green Party ticket during the 1996 and 2000 elections. Full Bio

Russell Means

Russell Means

Russell Means was an Oglala Lakota Indian rights activist for many decades, and as the head of the  American Indian Anti-Defamation League beginning in 1988, he fought for the unique identity and independence of Native Americans. Full Bio

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a musician of Cree Indian heritage who has written about Native American affairs, written poetry and screenplays, and composed film scores, as well as writing, recording, and performing songs. Full Bio

Irene Bedard

Irene Bedard

Irene Bedard is an actress of Inupiat, Yupic, Cree, and Métis heritage best known for the role of Pocahontas in the Disney film. She started Sleeping Lady Films and Waking Giants Productions to make authentic Native American films. Full bio

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is an American author, writer of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring Native American characters and settings. In 2012, Erdrich received the National Book Award for her novel, The Round House. Full Bio

N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday

Navarre Scott Momaday is an a novelist and academic of Kiowa Indian heritage whose novel, House Made of Dawn, is hailed as a breakthrough in Native American Literature; it also won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Full Bio

Beverly Little Thunder

Beverly Little Thunder

Beverly Little Thunder is a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Band, serves on the board of the Peace & Justice Center, and speaks out against violence toward women, children, and LGBTQ peopleFull Bio

Fred Begay

Fred Begay

Fred Begay was a Navajo nuclear physicist who conducted research on the Sun, atomic energy, and the physics of plasma, a gas used in nuclear power plants. He also advised the Navajo Nation on science and technology issues. Full Bio

Native American and Alaskan Native History Books @ MiraCosta Library

Lakota Woman
The Cherokee Kid
Fleshing the Spirit
Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams: Inspired by Navajo folklore
A Land Apart
The Road Back to Sweetgrass
Indigenous Pop: Native American music From Jazz to Hip Hop
We Will Always Be Here: Native Peoples on Living and Thriving in the South
How to be an Indian in the 21st Century
Kiowa Belief and Ritual

Native American and Alaskan Native History Films @ MiraCosta Library

Language Healers

Language Healers - Native Americans Revitalizing Native Languages

Heenetlineyoo3eihiiho (Language Healers) is a documentary that tells the story of Native Americans who are striving to revitalize their languages. From Alaska to Oklahoma and Wisconsin to Montana, we witness stories about the importance of saving Native American languages.

We Shall Remain

We Shall Remain (series)

This television series tells five heartbreaking, yet inspiring stories. Together, they highlight Native ingenuity and resilience over the course of 300 years. The series upends two-dimensional stereotypes of American Indians as simply ferocious warriors or peaceable lovers of the land.

The Cherokee Word for Water

The Cherokee Word for Water

Set in the early 1980s, the film begins in a small, rural Oklahoma town where many houses lack running water. Told from the perspective of Wilma Mankiller and full-blood Cherokee organizer Charlie Soap, these leaders join forces to battle opposition and build a 16-mile waterline system using a community of volunteers.

Sousa on the Rez

Sousa on the Rez: Marching to the Beat

When you hear the phrase 'Native American music' you may not think of tubas, trumpets, and Sousa marches. Yet, this rich musical tradition has long been a part of Native American culture. Experience the Native American music scene and get an inside look at contemporary Indian life in this short documentary.

More than A Word

More Than A Word: Native American-Based Sports Mascots

An exploration of Native American-based mascots, especially the Washington R_dskins, and their impact on real-life attitudes, issues, and policies. The film explores the history of the slanderous term "redskin," and delves into cultural stereotypes of Native Americans and their relationship to history.

Children of the Arctic

Children of the Arctic: A Powerful Portrait of 5 Alaskan Teenagers

A year-in-the-life portrait of Native Alaskan teenagers coming of age in Barrow, Alaska, the northern-mosts community of the United States. They are twenty-first century descendants of a culture that has endured for millennia on this isolated, but rapidly changing tundra.

Native American Languages and Cultural Identity


Comanche Nation performer at Sheppard Air Force BaseIndigenous Language Preservation

Indigenous Language Institute: Provides vital language related service to Native communities so that their individual identities, traditional wisdom, and values are passed on to future generations in their original languages.

American Indian Language Development Institute (University of Arizona): Provides critical training to strengthen efforts to revitalize and promote the use of Indigenous languages across generations.

The Ways: Stories on culture & language from Native communities around the Central Great Lakes.

Alaska Native Language Center (University of Alaska at Fairbanks): Alaska is home to at least 20 distinct indigenous languages. More than just dialectical variants, these different languages reflect the diverse cultural heritage of Alaska's Native peoples.

Navigating Identity

The Difficult Math of Being Native American (NPR: Code Switch)

Sexual and Gender Diversity in Native America and the Pacific Islands (from LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History​, a publication of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service)

How Native American Women Inspired the Feminist Movement

15 Indigenous Feminists to Know, Read, and Listen To