The University of New Mexico Department of Anthropology is celebrating National Native American Heritage Month in November with a treasure trove of information and resources on its website including Native American history, scholars, events, research, news and organizations.

Deb Haaland

The goal of the website is to provide a variety of information and resources about Native American heritage in a single, easily accessible format that can facilitate learning, understanding, conversations and awareness, according to Jennifer George, Anthropology department administrator. 

See the complete National Native American Heritage Month feature from the UNM Anthropology Department here.

What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

On Oct. 31, President Joe Biden issued the presidential proclamation for Native American Heritage Month, noting, “During National Native American Heritage Month, we recognize the invaluable contributions of Native peoples that have shaped our country and honor the hundreds of Tribal Nations who continue exercising their inherent sovereignty as vital members of the overlapping system of governments in the United States.  We also recommit to supporting Tribal sovereignty; upholding the Federal Government’s solemn trust and treaty responsibilities; and working in partnership with Tribal Nations to advance prosperity, dignity, and safety for all Native peoples.”

In the proclamation, Biden noted his appointment of former Congresswoman for New Mexico and UNM alumna Deb Haaland as the first Native American Secretary of the Interior.

The Native American Heritage Month website from the federal government features an online exhibition curated by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Smith, a UNM alumna, has worked as an artist at the UNM Tamarind Institute for more than 40 years. The exhibition, The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, brings together works by an intergenerational group of nearly 50 living Native artists practicing across the United States.