November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This is one month that may be forgotten at times because of certain cultural barriers, but Native American Heritage month has much to offer.
“The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people,” says NCAI.org, the website of the National Congress of American Indians. The first time this type of day was observed was actually back in 1916 when Governor of New York, Charles S. Whitman fixed the second Saturday in May for Native Americans. In the following years, many states followed suit. But, the country as a whole did not see the first signs of a full month until 1986 when President Ronald Reagan made a presidential proclamation making the week of Nov. 23-30 “American Indian Week.” Every president after 1995 has declared November the month for American Indian heritage.
Cultural barriers like the isolation of Native American reservations have caused there to not be much of an outreach to the rest of the nation. But, associations like the NCAI and sources such as nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov have pushed to educate other cultures and people groups within America to learn about some of the first people who stepped foot on this continent, and no, it was not the guy who met the “Indians” either.
Some of the ways these organizations reach out include the use of modern public relations.The NCAI participates in the DC Native Public Relations Roundtable, a group consisting of public relations professionals from national American Indian and Alaska Native organizations and agencies. One of the best ways to celebrate American Indian Heritage month is to do your own research. There are multiple government websites and associations about how you can do your part to stay informed and take part in the celebration of history which is a significant part of our nation’s history.