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Native American Heritage Month

Date: November 4, 2022

National American Indian Heritage Month was signed by then President George H.W. Bush from a congressional resolution in 1990, designating its observance in the month of November. Each year since 1994 proclamations have been issued.

The resolution was far from the first step in establishing National Native American Heritage Month, as it is officially called, it is the result of almost a decade of efforts by pioneering individuals who worked to raise awareness and establish recognition.

One of the earliest proponents was Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, a Cattaraugus Seneca Indian, historian, anthropologist, and author from New York state. Through his work, a number of American Indian rights organizations were formed, two of note are the National Congress of American Indians in 1944 and much earlier, the Society of American Indians in 1911. His advocacy included that American Indians be given U.S. citizenship.

In 1914, Native rights advocate Reverend Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Tribe citizen, embarked on a 4,000-mile trek on horseback to Washington, D.C., to petition the president for an “Indian Day.”

Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915 that declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal to recognize Indians as citizens.

It would be over sixty years later, at which time Jerry Elliott (Osage-Cherokee) authored the Congressional legislation for the first Native American Awareness week in October.

In National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate Indigenous peoples and seek to better honor Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination.

There are 573 federally recognized Indian Nations plus other tribes located throughout the United States who are recognized by their respective state governments. From the National Park Service webpage are some specific terms they offer to educate us:

  • Alaska Native This term refers to the indigenous people of the area. Native Alaskan is anyone from Alaska (including non-indigenous).
  • American Indian Some tribes (and their associated parks) prefer Native American. Use specific tribal name(s) whenever possible, accurate, and appropriate. See also First Nations, tribal names.
  • First Nation, First Nations Refers to aboriginal people in Canada who are neither Inuit (people of the Canadian Arctic) nor Métis (descendants of First Nation people who married Europeans). Often used in the plural in the collective sense, as in a program for First Nations youth. The term is widely used in Canada but is not used in the US, except in connection with Métis whose homelands include northwest Minnesota, North Dakota, or other northern states. See also American Indian.
  • Native American Used, if requested, by specific tribes or parks. See American Indian.
  • Tribal name Use specific tribal name(s) whenever possible, accurate, and appropriate. Also, the preference is to use the singular noun: Navajo, Lakota, Tlingit. See also American Indian. Examples: The Navajo entered Canyon de Chelly about 300 years ago. The Anishinabek fished in Lake Superior.

Last year, our AFA Executive Board passed a resolution establishing our AFA Heritage Month program and AFA pin, recognizing Native American Flight Attendants, their contributions and influence to the history, culture, and achievements. Friday, November 25 is Native American Heritage Day.

We have grounded our AFA Diversity and Inclusion pins around color and symbols. This pin includes the Native American sun symbol in gold surrounded by the color blue to represent where Flight Attendants spend our time -- in the sky.

Read the Resolution >

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