In 2016, President Obama proclaimed November as National Native American Month.
To commemorate, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are holding special tribute events and exhibits to Native Americans throughout the month.
The National Museum of the American Indian will host a theatrical dance performance of Northwest Indians to highlight their history and culture later this month.
California, Maryland, South Carolina and most recently Wisconsin (2016) have adopted state measures to establish annual Native American months. Maryland’s Act No. 582 (2014) requires the governor to proclaim annual recognition. Other states also have adopted temporary measures recognizing a Native American month, including Delaware, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
In addition, California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia and Washington have created a formal Native American Heritage holiday in the state. The dates vary by state. Recognition of native cultures can be a way for states to build government-to-government relations with tribes and encourage educational and cultural exhibits.
States have also acknowledged Native American historical and cultural contributions in the form of Indigenous People’s Day.
In 2012, Pennsylvania adopted a resolution declaring the first Saturday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Montana adopted HJR 32 in 1991, affirming the cultural contributions and creating a “new beginning” day in 1992.
This legislative session, seven states and the District of Columbia have introduced 10 measures naming an Indigenous People’s Day. Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin would recognize a day in October. Virginia’s HJR 347 declares the fourth Wednesday of November as Indigenous Peoples Day.
In honor of this month, blogs over the next few weeks will highlight some projects related to energy that NCSL is working on with Indian country.
Martha Salazar is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s State Tribal Institute.
Also, visit PBS for some great Native American documentaries!