National Native American Heritage Month 2021

November 2021 Paying tribute to the rich ancestry & traditions of Native Americans

November is National Native American Heritage Month, or as the event is commonly titled, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

The month of November is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories, while acknowledging the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

More about National Native American Heritage Month…¹

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.

Dr. Arthur C. Parker

One of the very first 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, New York. 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, Kansas, formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. The association directed its president, Reverend Sherman Coolidge, an Arapaho Indian, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on September 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.

Red Fox James at White House 1915

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

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.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

About the National Native American Heritage Month website…

National Native American Heritage Month is a collaborative project of the following national organizations:
Learn more by visiting National American Heritage Month.

The following IHN story was originally published April 19, 2021.

Inver Hills Unity Trail Project

Blanketflower: Annabella Meyer

Tribute to traditional territory of Wahpekute, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ

Initiated by Randi Goettl, director of accessibility resources, Michael Birchard, associate vice president of equity and inclusion, and Tim Follett-Dion, sustainability special project assistant, in collaboration with the American Indian Advisory Council at Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College, the Inver Hills Unity Trail Project proposes redesigning, enhancing and expanding an existing nature trail on the west side of the college’s campus in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

The one-mile, native prairie trail on campus will be part of a proposed five-mile Unity Trail Spur Loop (see second map below) in Inver Grove Heights that will include interpretive signage highlighting BIPOC voices in the community. Other partners on the project include Inver Glen Library, Simley High School, Inver Grove Middle School, and Inver Grove Heights Parks and Recreation.

Randi Goettl, who also serves as lead on The Bee’s Knees Committee, noted that the Unity Trail Project leverages the drawing power of the Inver Hills Community Garden & Orchard, an important asset on campus, while aligning with the college’s institutional values:

  • Excellence and innovation in education
  • Caring for environmental, human and financial resources
  • Valuing equity, inclusion, integrity and respect

“Our project aims to bring our values alive by transforming our college’s outdoor space in a more community-focused way,” Randi said. “The redesigned trail system throughout our campus will have interpretive signs that tell stories aimed at stimulating visitor interest while challenging their imaginations. We hope the trail and self-guided signage will present new perspectives on local American Indian history, the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, protecting our natural environment and raising pollinator awareness.”

Gerry Huerth: American Indian perspective

“The voices of the Dakota Peoples and American Indians are still living in the Inver Hills Unity Trail Project. Despite our national forgetfulness or nostalgic romanticism, all of us can hear echoes of the American Indian worlds as we walk these paths.”
Gerry Huerth
Two Spirit Elder

Tim Follett-Dion: Project assistant perspective

“Working on the Unity Trail Project is a learning opportunity to enhance my communication, technical and leadership skills.”
Tim Follett-Dion
Sustainability Special Project Assistant
Inver Hills Community College

Anna Ferris: Unity Trail partner perspective

“Partnering with Inver Hills Community College and other organizations on this grant proposal has helped deepen our connections and opened the door for further collaboration, within and beyond the grant project.”
Anna Ferris
Parks Outreach Coordinator
Dakota County

Laura Morlock: Unity Trail partner perspective

“As a partner and destination location on the Unity Trail, the Inver Glen Library collaboration will likely include a reading garden, sidewalk poetry, and a story walk. We are excited to embrace more equitable literacy areas that support our Mission to cultivate community, creativity and learning.”
Laura Morlock
Branch Manager
Inver Glen Library

Margaret Stone: Unity Trail partner perspective

“I am excited about this project and the great community partnerships that have come about because of it. The Unity trail will help strengthen community ties and get us all outside together!”
Margaret Stone
Dakota County Library

More about the Unity Trail…

Source: Anna Ferris, Parks Outreach Coordinator, Dakota County

Randi Goettl pointed out that the Unity Trail Project is a wonderful, collaborative way to advance the Inver Hills mission of strengthening communities through education.

“By creating a multipurpose, interpretive campus trail system, we are encouraging more community engagement with our college,” she said, “increasing the college’s visibility in the larger Twin Cities metro area, and promoting regional utilization of a newly beautiful, sustainable and educational campus landscape.”

Michael Birchard serves as associate vice president of equity and inclusion at Inver Hills and Dakota County Technical College. Michael has helped spearhead the Unity Trail Project through his work on the American Indian Advisory Council.

“This project has been an amazing opportunity to bring together many organizations to create a vision that promotes universal humanitarian ideas,” he said. “With this project, we are focused on unity, collaboration and inclusion.”

Unity Trail Project goals include:

  • Increasing trail use by campus and area community members
  • Honoring culture and heritage of Wahpekute, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) tribes
  • Educating trail users on proper land recognition
  • Spotlighting Inver Hills as Twin Cities community college most focused on sustainability, environmental preservation and inclusivity

Educational signage for interpretive trail

Educational signage example
  • Using vendor identified as indigenous-owned or other minority-owned
  • Consulting with different stakeholders to ensure accuracy of information
  • Giving historical context as well as providing modern history

Minnesota native: Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Perennial herb
Growing conditions

Light requirement: Sun, part-shade, shade
Soil type: Sandy to loamy
Soil condition: Moist, well-drained
Climate: Zones 4–8, exceptionally cold-hardy


Conspicuous flowers: YES: Bright blue to violet tubular spikes
Fragrant blooms: YES: Very aromatic with anise scent (licorice)
Fragrant leaves: YES: Smell like anise when crushed
Attracts pollinators: YES: Butterflies, hummingbirds, many species of bees
Nectar: YES: Flowers exceedingly rich with nectar

The Unity Trail Project slated to unfold in four stages:


Delve deeper…

Learn more about National Native American Heritage Month by visiting the following national websites:

Learn more about the Center for Diversity and Equity at Inver Hills by contacting:

Student Life
College Center Room 116

¹ SOURCE: National Native American Heritage Month

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