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The ACLU of North Dakota Recognizes Native American Heritage Month

During the month of November, we recognize the many sacrifices, contributions, and achievements of Native American people as well as celebrate their rich and vibrant cultures.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution that marked November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." While the name eventually was updated to what it is today, this started as an annual tradition upheld in communities across the country.

For folks looking for ways to participate, we’ve listed a some ways anyone can honor Native American heritage this month -- and every month.

Visit a reservation or museum

The United States has 56.2 million acres of land for various Indian tribes and individuals, according to the US Department of Indian Affairs. There are approximately 326 reservations.

Please note, these reservations are not tourist attractions. Many are the remnants of native tribes' lands, while others were created by the federal government for Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their lands. They are homes for tribes and communities; it's where many live, work, and raise their families.

However, some reservations welcome visitors and have even erected museums to educate the wider public about their history and culture.

For example, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C., features an engaging exhibit fit for all ages. The Cherokee community also hosts cultural events and sells items nearby.

Attend or host an educational event

The Library of Congress and National Archives are two of many national institutions that host events that educate attendees on Native American history and culture. 

Local institutions and organizations -- including libraries, schools and cultural groups -- may also host events, ranging from webinars to performances, and even more. If there are no events taking place in your area, consider hosting one. You don't have to be a Native American to appreciate and share their history and culture with your community.

A great way to start is by contacting a nearby reservation, museum, cultural group, or academic and ask how you can collaborate. To ensure your event doesn't accidentally disrespect Native communities, run ideas by their community leaders first.

'Decolonize' Dinner

The Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a friendly meal will be reenacted and celebrated across the country on Nov. 28.

However, that’s not the whole story. Native Americans actually consider this time as a "Day of Mourning," and often point out how this narrative overlooks how the introduction of European settlers was actually, quite tragic for indigenous communities.

For this reason, some Native American groups and their allies are calling on Americans to "decolonize" their Thanksgiving celebrations, including their dinner. Some ways of doing this may include putting away Native American decorations and tropes, introducing native dishes to the dinner table, and engaging in conversations about Native American history with dinner guests.

Some native groups, including United American Indians of New England, invite people to participate in "Day of Mourning" marches.

Read, and share the work of Native American authors

A great way to learn about Native American history and culture is to pick up a book or find and article online written by a Native American author and read it.

Tommy Orange, Louise Erdrich, Stephen Graham Jones, and Joy Harjo are among the many Native American authors celebrated for their works. Of course, not all their books are historical accounts. Many are fiction, romance, and even horror - but don’t let that stop you. Add some of their books to your Black Friday shopping list.

You can also read up on the history of Native Americans using resources provided by the National Archives.

Support indigenous activists

Whether you begin following individuals online and promote their work by sharing, or support activists’ work financially. Anything you can do to lift the important work of indigenous activists won’t go unnoticed. 

Support native-owned businesses and charities

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Instead of spending all your money on Amazon, consider spending some at native-owned businesses or even donating to charities. It's a great way to support the economic well-being of native communities as well as contribute to worthwhile social causes. There's a long list of environmental, economic, education, health, and rights groups that work to strengthen and empower native communities.

Consider donating this National Native American Heritage Month.

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