Thursday, September 21, 2023


November is Native American Heritage Month. Here are some ways to honor and celebrate it

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged….” —Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief

Some 13,000 years ago, long before Europeans settled in North America, sovereign societies stretched across the continent and relied on negotiated networks of alliances, treaties, trade agreements, and intermarriage. Archeologists have traced their journey from north-central Asia across a land bridge at the Bering Strait (between modern-day Alaska and Siberia). The journey continued as indigenous people occupied every parcel of land in North America.

For the month of November, Native American Heritage Month aka American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, we honor the traditions of those people that met great hardship as nonnative populations grew and migrated to develop a “new world.” Many cultures were lost in the transition and many continue to struggle in the 21st century.

I am writing from what is known today as Tucson, Arizona, but I would like to respectfully acknowledge the indigenous people of the O’odham, Apache, Hopi, Maricopa, Yavapai, Zuni, and the Yaqui who lived, and still live, on this land as far back as 12,500 years ago. Archeological sites in the Tucson basin are thought to represent the oldest, continuously inhabited area in the United States.

Ways to honor Native American Heritage Month

Wherever your travels take you this month, you are probably near one of the 423 National Park “units” that are in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and island territories. Parks have strong relationships with native populations, so they provide a great place to visit and learn about the history of those in your area.

If you are heading south for the winter, you might check out one of these locations to learn more about the native populations in the area:

  • Trail of Tears commemorates the Cherokee people who were forcefully removed from their native homelands in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, to relocate to a territory in Oklahoma in 1838–1839. The trail goes through many states and has historic markers along the route.
  • Russel Cave National Monument, in northeast Alabama, has a very complete record of humans using the cave for more than 10,000 years.
  • Saguaro National Park, in Tucson, Arizona, has a prehistory of the Hohokam and O’odham peoples, with the O’odham Nation still carrying on the desert traditions. See ancient petroglyphs and pictographs along the trails and learn about traditional uses of plants and animals.
  • Big Bend National Park, in the southwest corner of Texas, had prehistoric occupation as far back as 8000 B.C. The region went through many changes as the climate changed after the last ice age and multiple nomadic peoples passed through the area.

Events of Note

  • During the week of November 14–20, Indigenous peoples around the world take part in #RockYourMocs. It is a way to show solidarity and embrace individuality by wearing traditional footwear.
  • On November 19, people are encouraged to wear red to symbolize the loss of Native women, who are reported missing or murdered 10 times more than the national average. #RedShawlDay

The National Park Service is not the only entity paying tribute to the rich traditions of Native Americans.

You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month here.


Find 12,000-year-old pictographs at this Texas campground



  1. If anybody has a right to receive retribution from the government it would be the Native American, we literally stole their land and moved them onto reservations.

    • Thank you for that and please accept my apology for the error. Volumes can be written about the Trail of Tears and I hope readers will take time to learn more.


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