City Cast

The Story Behind National Native American Heritage Month

Natalia Aldana
Natalia Aldana
Posted on November 8
Archival photo of Red Fox James.

Red Fox James, one of the early proponents of a federal holiday honoring Indigenous people within the U.S. (Library of Congress)

November was officially designated as a heritage month to recognize America’s original inhabitants and celebrate their rich culture and contributions in 1990, then referred to as National American Indian Heritage Month. But efforts to pay tribute to Indigenous people started long before.

Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, rode horseback across the U.S. seeking approval for a day to honor Native Americans and presented an endorsement from 24 states to the White House in 1915. The first official American Indian Day was declared by New York’s governor in May 1916.

This year’s theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” There are 574 federally recognized nations, tribes, and pueblos within the U.S. comprising over 3.7 million people. Self-governance is at the heart of Native people’s ability to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.

Opportunities to Celebrate

  • Indigenous American Heritage Celebration, Sunday: Music, storytelling, crafts, dance, and more, in Henderson’s Water Street Plaza.
  • ‘Native American Flute, Dance, and Stories,’ Nov. 17 and 18: Indigenous performers Shelley Morningsong and Fabian Fontenelle appear at the Windmill and Whitney libraries.
  • Indigemart, Nov. 24: Nuwu Art Gallery + Community Center, on Maryland Parkway, hosts a day of Indigenous culture, food, and vendors.
  • ‘Native American Dance and Music,’ Nov. 28 and 29: Champion hoop dancer Derrick Suwaima Davis and musician Ryon Polequaptewa share their culture at the Clark County and Centennial Hills libraries.
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