5:04 pm PST
2018 Hopi Festival (Ryan Williams)

Before Italian explorer Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, the very first Americans had already arrived on the continent thousands of years earlier.

Around 10,000 years ago after the Ice Age ended, American Indians migrated across the two Americas, and developed languages, customs, and civilizations. The warming climate inspired some Native American tribes to grow a wide variety of crops, and become highly skilled farmers who also raised turkeys, llamas, and guinea pigs. By 1000BC Native American tribes had nearly covered the entire continent.

Each November, American Indian Heritage Month honors this unique culture and history that dates back millennia.

“Throughout the nation, Native American Tribes are holding special celebrations in November that,” said Camille Ferguson, executive director of American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) in a public statement.

“But as much as this is a time to honor past Native American contributions, it is also a time to remember that Native American culture is flourishing throughout the country. We encourage residents and visitors to attend a local ‘powwow,’ film screening or other event to experience native culture firsthand.”

AIANTA encourages travelers to celebrate American Indian culture throughout the country.

For a partial but growing list of Native American Heritage Month activities around the United States, please visit www.aianta.org/NAHM

Hopi Indians hoop dancing (Smithsonian)

Humble Beginnings

The celebration began in 1987 as American Indian Week (November 22 to 28), after Congress urged then U.S. President Ronald Reagan to declare the national event.

Three years later then President George Bush Senior approved a joint resolution, proclaiming November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month. Native American Heritage Month has been formally recognized under different names every year since 1994.

“Today Americans of all ages recognize the many outstanding achievements of this country’s original inhabitants and their descendants,” the proclamation said.

“The giant redwood trees protected in a number of our national parks bear the name of Sequoia, in honor of the great Cherokee leader who taught thousands of Indians to read and write and, in so doing, helped to unite and strengthen the Cherokee Nation. We also recall the achievements of Charles Curtis (1929 to 1933), the proud descendant of Native Americans who served this country not only as a member of Congress but also as Vice President.”

By Richard Szabo