Celebrating the History, Culture and Contributions of Native Americans
November is National Native American Heritage Month. This is an important time to remember the contributions and significance of the people whose ancestors were the original inhabitants of the land we live on. During this month, our CoolSys family is honoring and celebrating the rich history, culture, traditions, languages and contributions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians today and throughout history.
In 1990, President George W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month, which we now refer to as Native American Heritage Month. But this recognition dates even further back — to 1976, when a Cherokee American Indian, J.C. Elliott-High Eagle, authored legislation for American Indian Awareness Week, which was signed by President Gerald R. Ford. That year, October 10-16 became the first official week of national recognition for the American Indian. Native American Heritage Day is commemorated on the day after Thanksgiving (which, this year, is November 26).
The Native American narrative has been overshadowed by a history told through the eyes of Western culture. In recent years, there have been significantly increased efforts in our federal and state governments and education systems to challenge traditional narratives, stereotypes and biases about Native American people and build greater awareness, understanding and education of a more accurate history.
Did You Know …?
There are 574 federally recognized Native Tribes and 6.79 million Native Americans in the U.S. (about 2.09% of the entire U.S. population). Approximately 22% of Native American people live on tribal lands today.
The term “Indian” originated with Christopher Columbus, who thought he had landed in the East Indies. He called the Indigenous peoples “Indians.”
Benjamin Franklin thought the idea of a government like the Iroquois Confederacy could be used by the English colonies. The eagle on the U.S. shield is sacred to many Native Tribes.
The Navajo Nation reservation covers 27,673 square miles. If it were a U.S. state, it would be the 42nd largest. An additional 19 tribal nations are each larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Learn About Notable Native Americans
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland — The first Native American women to serve in the U.S. Congress. Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, and Davids is the first openly LGBTQ+ Native American elected to the U.S. Congress.
John Bennett Herrington — A member of the Chickasaw Nation, he is a NASA astronaut and Navy commander. In 2002, he became the first member of a Native American tribe to fly into space.
Navajo Code Talkers — Over 24,000 Native Americans served during World War II. One of the most notable groups is known as the “Code Talkers,” a special group of signalmen who created an unbreakable communication code. In 2000, the Code Talkers received the Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions.
Mary G. Ross — A member of the Cherokee Nation, she was the first known female Native American mathematician and engineer (one of the “hidden figures”) at NASA. The projects she worked on include the Agena rocket, the Poseidon and Trident missiles, and early designs for flights to Mars and Venus.
Jason Momoa (Joseph Jason Namakaeha Momoa) — As an actor, he has helped to diversify the superhero movie genre in his portrayal of Aquaman.
Learn Through Reading and Education
- Check out a curated list of books that celebrate the heritage of Native American and Indigenous People in the U.S., or read one of the many acclaimed novels written by Native American authors.
- Visit the National Archives online to find resources on American history related to Native Americans.
- Read about the Smithsonian Museum’s national education initiative NK360, built to improve how Native American history and culture is taught in schools.
- Explore important Native American landmarks across the U.S.
Learn Through Movies
Watch some of the great movies about Native Americans, including The Last of the Mohicans, Dreamkeeper and Spirit Rider.
Learn Through Cooking
Native American culinary traditions are extensive, highlighting the vibrant diversity of cultural dishes of Indigenous peoples.
- Read about the rich history and flavors of Native American recipes.
- Try some favorite recipes, including frybread, three sisters soup, acorn bread, buffalo (or beef) stew, succotash and pork roast.
Support Native American Communities Today
There are a variety of nonprofit organizations that support the development of Indigenous peoples and communities across the U.S., including American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Potlatch Fund and First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
As part of Native American Heritage Month, we recognize and celebrate our Native American CoolSys family members. Check out our CoolPeople at CoolSys feature in this issue to meet two of them!