Each year, November is designated as National American Indiana & Alaska Native Heritage Month. The observance of this month commemorates the history, heritage and culture of the Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. During this month, we acknowledge the wide array of achievements that our indigenous people had throughout history.

There are a couple of records of a “National Indian Day” before it was proclaimed a national event. In 1914, a Blackfoot native named Red Fox Skiuhushu rode from state to state seeking approval for a Remembrance Day in honor of the Native Americans. He presented the White House with endorsement from 24 different states, but no official date was proclaimed that year.

In 1916, the New York governor proclaimed that there would be a “National Indian Day” observed that year in their state, and a few other states followed suit. A few states even declared that Columbus Day would be Native American Day as well. Despite these efforts, the day was not nationally recognized as a holiday for many more years.

Congress passed a proclamation authorizing the national existence and recognition of “American Indian Week” in 1986. In 1990, President George W. Bush approved a proclamation that November of 1990 would be National American Indian Heritage Month. Each year since then, presidents have signed similar proclamations to keep this month in national recognition.

During National American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month, people are encouraged to join in on community gatherings and festivals. There are also many government-held and education-based activities for people to join in on as well.  You are encouraged to broaden your knowledge on the history and traditions of Native Americans, as well as their contributions to the world such as their art, scientific discoveries, education, sports and technology.

Prior to their removal, Indiana was home to many Native American tribes. These tribes included the Miami, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Wea, Ottawa, Potawatomi; Piankashaw, Chippewa, Delaware, Wyandot, Kaskaskia, and the Eel River. The main Native American tribe of the Wabash Valley was the Wea Tribe, and at Indiana State University we recognize that the lands we have built on were originally theirs.

If you want to support Native American-owned businesses here in Indiana, there are many options for you to look at. Museums such as the Native American Museum here in Terre Haute, as well as the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis share various works of art and culture from Native Americans in the area. The Tecumseh Lodge Education Group hosts various events throughout the year to help educate others on the Native Americans, and all proceeds from the events go towards various American Indian education and community groups.

The Office of Multicultural Services and Programs will be hosting an information booth on National American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month on Nov. 15. For more information on this month, you can visit the MSP office on the 7th floor of HMSU. For information about the Wea Tribe that inhabited our area, you can visit www.wea-indian-tribe.org or www.weaindiantribe.com.