November is “Native American Heritage Month”

As you gather with family to give thanks this November, remember the many contributions “First Americans” have made to the United States.

As early as 1915, various individuals, organizations and states began campaigns to establish a special day recognizing the important role played by Native Americans throughout the history of the Unites States. Nationally, the first presidential proclamation setting aside the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month occurred in 1990, issued by George H.W. Bush. This year, President Barack Obama issued his proclamation on October 31, 2013, urging “all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 29, 2013, as Native American Heritage Day.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), annually distributes a poster nationwide to commemorate American Indian Heritage Month.

A different state is selected each year to design the poster, with a committee of NRCS staff identifying a theme. For 2013, they chose “Land of the Great Water-Sustainer of Life” as their theme and named Michigan as the state to provide the design. The 2013 poster was painted by Michigan artist Shirley M. Brauker, a member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

A website commemorating Native American Heritage Month is maintained collaboratively by The Library of Congress, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institute, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This site offers a variety of resources including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indian’s YouTube channel, travel itineraries offered by the National Park Service to learn more about the Native American experience in American history and video interviews with Native American veterans who have served from World War II to Iraq.

Visitors to the site can also browse a list of upcoming events during November commemorating Native American culture or click on links to the Library of Congress or Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to find more events.

Additional links to collaborating partner sites offer audio and video presentations, exhibits and collections classroom resources for teachers, and both digital and physical photos of Native Americans.

Michigan State University Extension provides a variety of programming for Michigan tribes through its Building Strong Sovereign Nations program. For more information, contact Emily Proctor, Tribal Extension educator, at or 231-439-8927.

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