In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a resolution to make November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” However the origins of Native American Heritage Month go back much farther.
There are over 9 million Native Americans and Native Alaskans living in the United States today. And with over 500 federally recognized tribes, there are hundreds of different cultures that are as unique as the people they represent. From artwork to literature and cuisine and music, there is much to appreciate and learn.
Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions and histories and important contributions of Native American people, along with acknowledging their struggles both throughout history and in the present day. For instance, did you know that it wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship? And while the Indian Citizenship Act also gave Native Americans the right to vote, it took another 40 years for all 50 states to allow them voting rights.
Native American tribes have an influential presence in the Northwest. Myths, traditions, artwork abound and define our region and local communities. Even our nomenclature conveys a Native American legacy: Chinook, Klickitat, Cowlitz, Tillamook are all examples of how the tribes that have origins thousands of years ago are still represented in our place names.
This November is an opportunity for our students - and our adults - to learn about the important role Native Americans played in our history and still play in our lives today.