November is National Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to recognize, honor, and learn more about the history, traditions, and contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
How it started
President Reagan designated the week of November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.” Since 1995, every United States President has issued annual proclamations honoring the month of November to celebrate the culture, accomplishments, and contributions of the first occupants of the United States (more at PBS.org).
Did you know?
“From the tip of South America to the Arctic, Native Americans developed scores of innovations,” History.com reports.
For example, the Inuit of the North American Arctic invented protective snow goggles. The Inca of South America developed strong suspension bridges across gorges, using mountain grasses and other vegetation. The History.com article also discusses the Native American beginnings of baby bottles, kayaks, corn, syringes, mouthwash, and rubber. And this Scholastic teacher’s guide outlines additional contributions in the categories of foods, animals, non-edible plants, medicines, mathematics, and government.
Today, people all over the world continue to use innovations that Native Americans developed.
Tribes in Arizona and the U.S.
There are 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. Every tribe’s cultural richness adds to the unique and beautiful culture Arizona is known for. This Visit Arizona webpage lists more details on each of the tribes and their respective lands and histories.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports 574 federally recognized tribes throughout the United States, in addition to many state recognized tribes across the U.S.
How to Celebrate National Native American Heritage Month
This month is a great opportunity to learn more about American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian heritage and history. Choose a few tribes to study, watch a documentary, or visit an online museum exhibit. There are many free online resources, and we’ve listed a few to get you started.
- Scholastic: Native American Contributions
- History.com: 10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today
- Arizona Memory Project: Photo collections of a variety of local Native American art and stories
- Khan Academy: Native American culture of the Southwest
- National Museum of the American Indian:
- Arizona State Museum Online Resources: Videos, PDFs, games, and more on a variety of tribes and topics
Native American culture is a big part of Arizona’s – and the United States’ – culture. There are local Native American businesses that offer a variety of products and services.
One thing Arizona is known for is unique Native American jewelry and art. The Indian Arts and Crafts Board published a directory of American Indian and Alaska Native Owned and Operated Arts and Crafts Enterprises, organized by state. Here’s the list. Especially during COVID-19 and the economic repercussions of the pandemic, supporting local businesses is more important than ever.
Of course, there are many other ways you can support local Native American businesses. You could make it into a scavenger hunt with your friends to research and support the most businesses this month. Or you could find restaurants to try the delicious cuisine of tribal lands. This Visit Arizona list is a good place to start, but there’s more you can find online, too.
Share one thing you learned with the people you know. Post a fun fact or trivia on social media. Invite others to learn and explore alongside you. Try making a Native American recipe with your family. There’s so much to learn and appreciate about the Native American culture, heritage, and contributions, especially in Arizona!
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