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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.

Source: www.nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov

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


Famous People in Native American and Alaskan Native History

Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids is a Native American attorney and politician and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. She is the first openly gay member of Congress to represent Kansas, as well as the first openly gay Native American to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. Full Bio

William L. Iġġiaġruk Hensley by Tripp Crouse/KNBA

William L. Iġġiaġruk Hensley

Hensley is the founder of the Northwest Alaska Native Association and formed and played a large role in the Alaska Federation of Natives. Full Bio.

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

In 2019, Harjo was named United States Poet Laureate, making her the first Native American to earn the title. Full Bio

Kimberly Teehee

Kimberly Teehee

American indigenous-rights activist Kimberly Teehee was poised to make history as the first delegate-designate to represent the Cherokee Nation in Congress. Full Bio

Robin Máxkii

Robin Máxkii

Robin Maxkii is a Native American technology activist, filmmaker, and writer. Maxkii is known primarily for her work on broadening the participation of Native Americans in education and technology. Full bio

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich was an Alaskan native who fought for equal rights in Alaska. She addressed the Alaskan Territorial Senate to chide members who were against an antidiscrimination bill, which passed in 1945. 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

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

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

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

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

You Who Enter Here
Living on the Borderlines: Stories
The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir
Indigenous Cities: Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation
Reclaiming Indigenous Research in Higher Education
Shifting Grounds: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art
Racial Ecologies
The Bungling Host: The Nature of Indigenous Oral Literature
Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands
How to be an Indian in the 21st Century
Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes: Modernity and Hip Hop in Indigenous North America

Native American and Alaskan Native History Films @ MiraCosta Library

Hopi: Songs of the Fourth World

Hopi: Songs of the Fourth World

A compelling study of the Hopi that captures their deep spirituality and reveals their integration of art and daily life. Amidst the beautiful images of Hopi land and life, a variety of Hopi--a farmer, religiou

Up Heartbreak Hill

Up Heartbreak Hill

Up Heartbreak Hill chronicles the lives of three Native American teenagers in Navajo, New Mexico-Thomas, an elite runner; Tamara, an academic superstar; and Gabby, an aspiring photographer-as they navigate their senior year at a reservation high school.

Common Ground: The Story of Bears Ears

Common Ground: The Story of Bears Ears

On December 28th, 2016, former President Obama protected nearly 1.5 million acres of sprawling canyon lands and ancient cultural sites in southeast Utah by designating the area as Bears Ears National Monument. 

N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear

N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear

When N. Scott Momaday won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, it marked one of the first major acknowledgments of Native American literature and culture. Now, Momaday’s words come to life in this biography of a celebrated Native American storyteller.

Spirits for Sale: The Commercialization of American Indian Rituals

Spirits for Sale: The Commercialization of American Indian Rituals

Western spiritualists often seek enlightenment through indigenous religions once practiced in different regions around the world. Native American rituals are especially popular, and Europeans stage ceremonies based on American Indian beliefs for which they charge admission. America’s original people are not pleased with this development, for they regard this practice as the exploitation of their heritage.


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