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November is recognized as NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH and Indian Country Today Media Network will be celebrating every day of the month.

According to the 2010 Census, there are more than 5.2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people and there are 566 federally recognized tribal nations that exist as sovereign nations within 33 states of the United States. In November, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the modern and the traditional cultures, peoples and societies of Native Americans. It’s also an occasion to highlight the important contributions of Native peoples and explore the shared histories between tribal nations.

Although First Peoples have lived on Turtle Island for time immemorial, and Europeans have occupied it for more than 500 years, the history of NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH is disappointingly short.

In 1915, Blackfeet Red Fox James rode on horseback from state to state, advocating for an official national day of recognition for Native peoples. He eventually obtained the support of 24 state governments, and he presented this to the White House. Although James’s efforts did not lead to an official day of national recognition that year, his spirit and drive are still honored today.

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The first official celebration came in 1916, when the governor of New York declared the second Saturday in May as American Indian Day. It wasn’t until 1986 that the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing and requesting the president to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.” Then-President Ronald Reagan followed through that year and declared the first American Indian Week. For the next three years, Reagan and then George H.W. Bush issued annual proclamations for National American Indian Week, honoring the achievements of Native Americans.

In 1990, President Bush approved a joint congressional resolution calling for the establishment of a National American Indian Heritage Month. Congress chose November to recognize Native Americans as this month concluded the traditional harvest season and was generally a time of thanksgiving and celebration for First Peoples. Bush issued a proclamation that year creating the first National American Indian Heritage Month, paying tribute to the rich history and cultures of American Indian tribes.

Every year since the U.S. president has proclaimed the month of November as NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH (although sometimes as National American Indian Heritage Month), celebrating the contributions of American Indians and urging peoples of the U.S. to learn more about Native American cultures.

Please look for our special NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH coverage this month. Each day ICTMN will be presenting dedicated stories, photos, information about events and causes and more. And we welcome your participation. What does NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH mean to you? Send us your poems, stories and photos for possible publication to

Together, we hope to foster a collective understanding and sense of unity among all peoples around the celebration of Native peoples during the month of November.