November marks the beginning of Native American Heritage Month. This month is meant to explore the history of Indigenous peoples as well as celebrate their heritage and traditions. According to the Library of Congress’ Native American Heritage Month website, the celebration initially began as a single day on the second Saturday of every May. On Sept. 28, 1915, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, the president of the Congress of the American Indian Association, signed a proclamation that recognized Native American Day and called for Native Americans to be recognized as citizens of the United States. From there, Native American Day was signed by individual states.
It wasn’t until 1990, when President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution, that Native American Heritage Month was officially recognized. The month has had a variety of names, such as Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. Nov. 26 is also National Native American Heritage Day. The day after Thanksgiving, this day is meant to celebrate Indigenous culture.
In North Carolina, there are eight tribes officially recognized by the state: the Coharie, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Haliwa-Saponi, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the Meherrin, the Sappony, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation and the Waccamaw Siouan. However, other tribes like the Tuscarora Tribe exist in North Carolina but are not officially recognized by the state.
There are several events in North Carolina that celebrate Native American Heritage Month. On Saturday, Nov. 20, the North Carolina Museum of History is hosting their 26th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration virtually from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Friday, Nov. 19, the museum will be hosting a free online event for students and educators. Western Carolina University is hosting a Native American Heritage Festival on Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PBS is also screening a variety of films and TV shows during the month that highlight Native American history and culture.
By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor