November is Native American and Alaskan Native Heritage Month and according to the National Congress of American Indians, “the month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contribution of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.”
There are 574 federally recognized Indigenous nations across the U.S. Washington state alone has 29 federally recognized tribes such as the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
In Idaho there’s the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Kootenai Tribes of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe. Oregon has the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. It is important to make Native peoples visible when organizing meetings and conferences. Do some research to find out what tribes traditionally occupied the land where you are meeting. Learn about land acknowledgement, traditional lands and treaties.
With the holidays coming up, you might consider helping to support Indigenous businesses by gift shopping at Native shops. The webpage Beyond Buckskin (bit.ly/3pPz0XB) has a fantastic list of Native owned and operated businesses with goods broken down into categories, and offering everything from jewelry, apparel, T-shirts, health and beauty, artwork and home décor, foods and drinks, music and books.
Some of my favorite businesses from their list include their own line, Beyond Buckskin. They have exquisite earrings and assorted jewelry. (shop.beyondbuckskin.com/).
I love Eighth Generation (eighthgeneration.com/) for their Northwest presence and alternative to Pendleton. Eighth Generation has a good assortment of beautiful products that make wonderful gifts.
The NTVS (The Natives, thentvs.com) is a Native owned clothing company established in 2014 that features high quality apparel with a uniquely creative flair.
Sister Sky (bit.ly/3Cw6DRU) offers sage, lavender, and sweetgrass mists, sprays, shampoos and body lotions.
The true, original and delicious energy bar that its competitor Epic Bar/General Mills ripped off is the Tanka Bar (tankabar.com/).
The SweetGrass Trading Company (sweetgrasstradingco.com/) has a wide selection of goods from honey and candles to wild rice and teas. It’s like an old fashioned mercantile, but the products are produced and sold by Indigenous retailers. They have terrific gift box sets.
If you enjoy Native American art you will love First American Art Magazine (firstamericanartmagazine.com/). FAAM publishes interviews, updates and features about the Indigenous art scene across the country.
Birchbark Books (birchbarkbooks.com/) is Native owned (its owner is celebrated author Louise Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and operated. It hosts a large selection of Indigenous authored books which customers can order online from the webpage.
Supporting Indigenous owned businesses is an excellent way to give back, but there are other ways to recognize Native American Heritage Month, too. You can donate directly to communities and organizations to help in making positive change.
NDN Collective (ndncollective.org/) is an Indigenous-led organization that works to protect Native land and other initiatives, like providing Indigenous artists and activists resources and support.
Climate Justice Alliance (climatejusticealliance.org) is an environmental organization that unites some of the communities most affected by the climate crisis to advocate for real solutions.
American Indian College Fund (standwithnativestudents.org/) is an organization that helps Indigenous students go to — and stay in — college.
Stop Line 3 (stopline3.org/) is a campaign to oppose the Line 3 pipeline, which is a proposed expansion from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin.
IllumiNative (illuminatives.org/) is a nonprofit aiming to counter the stereotypical and damaging mainstream narratives about Indigenous people by increasing visibility and awareness.
Throughout the month you can follow these hashtags on social media. These are important observances within Native communities that are worth learning more about: Nov. 11 — Veterans Day (check out #VeteransDay2021 and #NativeVets); Nov. 14-20 — #RockYourMocs; Nov. 19 — #RedShawlDay; Nov. 25 — #GiveThanks or #ThanksGiving; Nov. 26 — #NativeAmericanHeritageDay
Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. Her book of essays Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s was a finalist for a Washington State Book Award. She enjoys composting and frisky walks through dewy meadows. Midge lives in Moscow.