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.
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.
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.
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.
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)