Native American Heritage Month: Home

What is Native American Heritage Month?

National Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Native American Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

Becoming a Nationally Recognized Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month Poster

In 1990 Congress requested the President to issue a proclamation designating the month of November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”  Congress chose the month of the November to recognize the American Indians as this month concluded the traditional harvest season and was generally a time of thanksgiving and celebration for the American Indians.  President George H.W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 6230 which paid tribute to the rich history and culture of the American Indian tribes.  In 1991 Congress passed Pub. L. 102-123 which authorized and requested the President proclaim the months of November 1991 and 1992 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”  Subsequently, Congress passed Pub. L. 103-462 authorized the President to proclaim November 1993 and 1994 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” 

Since 1995 Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump have issued annual proclamations which designate November as National American Indian Heritage Month, or since 2009 as National Native American Heritage Month. These proclamations celebrate the contributions of the American Indians and urge the peoples of the United States to learn more about the American Indian cultures.

Timeline of Native American Recognitions

What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

  • 1914: Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rides horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. 
  • 1915: Congress of the American Indian Association meets to approve a plan concerning American Indian Day. President Coolidge issues a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day.
  • 1916: The governor of Illinois declares the second Saturday in May to be celebrated as American Indian Day.
  • 1919: Several states follow suit and designate the fourth Friday in September to celebrate.
  • 1990: President George H. W. Bush approves a joint resolution designating November 1990 as "National American Indian Heritage Month". Similar proclamations have been made each year since 1994.
  • Present: Several states have designated Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

Executive and Legislative Documents

The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Native American Heritage Month. Find our more about this on the Library of Congress web page.

Other Dedicated Web Sites

Native Americans Celebrating Traditions

Once forced to hide their heritage, Native Americans now enjoy both an acceptance and a celebration of their history and culture. By presenting the experiences of Native Americans from a wide array of fields including artisans, performers, and teachers, this program shows how many tribes are returning to the traditions and spirituality of their ancestors. Among those interviewed are Kevin Locke, award-winning Native American vocalist; Wilma Mankiller, the first woman in modern history to lead a tribe; and Richard West, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. (30 minutes)

National Native American Heritage Month Videos

National Native American Heritage Month: Honoring Veterans

National Native American Heritage Month

National Native American Heritage Month Ceremony

National Native American Heritage Month