Every November, the United States pays tribute to the cultures, traditions, and contributions of Indigenous Americans during Native American Heritage Month.
The observance originated in the early 20th century when Native American advocate Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, urged the Boy Scouts of America to recognize a day for the "First Americans." Later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month.
Our Native American population, from the Iroquois Confederacy in the Northeast to the Apache and Navajo in the Southwest, and the Inuit in the far North, encompasses more than 500 recognized tribes, each with unique cultures and languages.
Native Americans have made remarkable contributions to society. Activists like Elouise Cobell, who fought for Native American rights in land and resource management, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, exemplify the determination and leadership within Native American communities.
Native Americans serve in the United States’ Armed Forces at five times the national average. Incredible accounts of heroes from the Revolutionary War to the present are online at: https://www.army.mil/nativeamericans/
Recently Fort Picket, Virginia was re-designated Fort Barfoot in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient. Barfoot, a Choctaw Indian from Mississippi, served as a second lieutenant in the Thunderbirds.
On May 23, 1944, during the breakout from Anzio to Rome, Barfoot knocked out two machine gun nests and captured 17 German soldiers. Later that same day, he repelled a German tank assault, destroyed a Nazi fieldpiece, and carried two wounded commanders to safety.
During Native American Heritage Month, there are numerous ways to get involved and show support. In addition to attending local events, this is a great time to support Indigenous Artisans by purchasing authentic Native American crafts, artwork, and jewelry, or support their communities with a family trip to explore museums, heritage centers, and historical sites.
By honoring Native American history, we can foster greater understanding, respect, and unity among all Americans. This November, let us come together to celebrate the vibrant tapestry that is Native American heritage.