In 1990, November was officially designated as a heritage month to recognize America’s original inhabitants and celebrate their rich culture and contributions. It was referred to as National American Indian Heritage Month. But efforts to pay tribute to Indigenous people started long before.
Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, rode horseback across the U.S. seeking approval for a day to honor Native Americans and presented an endorsement from 24 states to the White House in 1915. The first official American Indian Day was declared by the New York state governor in May 1916.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” There are 574 federally recognized nations, tribes, and pueblos within the U.S. comprising over 3.7 million people. Self-governance is at the heart of Native people’s ability to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.
Wisconsin is home to 12 sovereign Native American nations:
- Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
- Brothertown Indian Nation
- Forest County Potawatomi
- Ho-Chunk Nation
- Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
- Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
- Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
- Oneida Nation
- Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
- Sokaogon Chippewa Community
- St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
- Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians
Here are Some Ways to Observe the Month in Madison
Each fall, the Madison Public Library partners with Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison to bring together a variety of Native artists, storytellers, and community leaders for a series of programs celebrating Indigenous people in and beyond Teejop (pronounced day-JOPE), meaning Four Lakes, or what we know as the city of Madison.
The UW-Madison Indigenous Student Center Coalition will host actor and activist Dallas Goldtooth on campus Nov. 30. Goldtooth is most well known for writing and acting in the groundbreaking FX series, “Reservation Dogs.” He is Dakota from the village of Cansayapi within the territory of the Oceti Sakowin people and a climate change activist with his non-profit The Indigenous Environmental Network. The event is free and open to the public with registration.
Check out more events happening around campus as part of Native November at UW-Madison.
This learning toolkit from PBS Wisconsin explores the state’s Indigenous lands and people through videos, book lists, and more.
Hayley Sperling contributed to this article.