This blog post is a month late but it's always better late than never. As some may have known, November was Native American Indian Heritage Month. It is a full month dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging the native people of the United States. The term "Indian" actually originated with Christopher Columbus after he thought he reached the East Indies when he actually landed in America– he called the inhabitants "Indians".
On August 3, 1990, George H.W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This federally recognized month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the U.S. to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways/concepts of life.
As of January 29, 2018, 573 Native American tribes were legally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of the United States– 231 of these tribes are Alaskan Natives. Some sources, according to our research, places the actual number of tribes at over 1,000 as of 2019.
There are now 4.5 million Native Americans and Alaskan Natives in the U.S. today– that's about 1.4% of the total U.S. population.
Native Americans were often grouped into tribes or nations. Groups were formed by those who shared the same culture, language, religion, customs, and politics. Some groups were also formed by region. Below are some tribes known today by region:
- Arctic/Subarctic - They survived the coldest winters. They include the Inuit people of Alaska who lived primarily off of whale and seal meat.
- Californian - Tribes living in the area that is today the state of California such as the Mohave and the Miwok.
- Great Basin - This is a dry area and was one of the last to have contact with Europeans. The Great Basin tribes include the Washo, Ute, and Shoshone.
- Great Plains - One of the largest areas and perhaps most famous group of American Indians, the Great Plains Indians were known for hunting bison. They were nomadic people who lived in teepees and they moved constantly following the bison herds. Tribes of the Great Plains include the Blackfoot, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Comanche and Crow.
- Northeast Woodlands - Includes the Iroquois Indians of New York, the Wappani, and the Shawnee.
- Northwest Coast/Plateau - These Native Americans were known for their houses made of cedar planks as well as their totem poles. Tribes include the Nez Perce, Salish, and the Tlingit.
- Southeast - The largest Native American tribe, the Cherokee, lived in the Southeast. Other tribes included the Seminole in Florida and the Chickasaw. These tribes tended to stay in one place and were skilled farmers.
- Southwest - The southwest was dry and the Native Americans lived in tiered homes made out of adobe bricks. Famous tribes here include the Navajo Nation, the Apache, and the Pueblo Indians.
Other well-known tribes include Algonquian, Apache, Iroquois and Sioux Nation.
Fun Fact: There are several words that comes directly from Native Americans/Alaskan Natives/Aztec origin.
I wish this month in particular was celebrated even more as I think it is truly important to tell the stories of the natives as it helps us to understand even more the role and influence they had in historical events to where the United States is today– never forget where you come from. As Marcus Garvey said “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Image is a photo of the modern Cree Tribe from Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development
Sources: Native-Languages.org, Wikipedia, Ducksters.com, History.com and Mentalfloss.com