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Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside to celebrate the culture, accomplishments, and contributions of the original peoples of this land. We also take this time to recognize the traits that make American Indian and Alaska Natives unique within the fabric of our society.

The history of this month goes back to the start of the 1900s when Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans." The president of the Congress of the American Indian Association, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, then declared a day in May as American Indian Day to formally recognize Indians as citizens.

In 1986 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the week of November 23-30 as “American Indian Week." Four years later, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month." Every year since 1994, subsequent U.S. presidents have issued proclamations designating the month of November as “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month" and now “Native American Heritage Month."  

In November, we have a unique opportunity to take a critical and honest look at our past and acknowledge the contributions Indigenous people have made to American culture and society. This is the time to address broken systems and symbols of oppression with a new vision that recognizes and appreciates the histories of the first people on this continent.

One step along this journey is a land acknowledgement, which is a statement that honors the Native caretakers of our region. Such an acknowledgment is often offered at the beginning of gatherings to serve as a reminder of Indigenous history and their influence and presence here and around the world today. Such an acknowledgment is a starting point that requires commitment to future action that can range from settler land dispossession to partnership and long-term relationships with Native communities.

Riverside Community College District has not yet adopted an official land acknowledgement but conversations in many sectors are taking place. In the meantime, we can learn from the example of our colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, whose statement reads as follows:

"We would like to respectfully acknowledge and recognize our responsibility to the original and current caretakers of this land, water, and air: the Cahuilla [ka-weeahh], Tongva [tong-va], Luiseño [loo-say-ngo], and Serrano [se-ran-oh] peoples and all of their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future. Today this meeting place is home to many Indigenous peoples from all over the world, including members of our own community, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to live and work on these homelands." UCR Land Acknowledgement

Published by External Relations & Strategic Communications