NEW YORK—In addition to ushering in the holiday season and bringing on the end of the year, November is also National Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside to “celebrate the traditions, languages and stories of Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and affiliated Island communities and ensure their rich histories and contributions continue to thrive with each passing generation,” as the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs explained.

The history of designating a National Native American Heritage Month is long, beginning with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, in 1915, and grew from there until it reached the federal level. As explained on the Native American Heritage Month website hosted by the Library of Congress, “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.”

President Biden issued his 2023 proclamation on October 31 of this year. He wrote, “This month, we celebrate Native American history and culture. We are reminded that with hard work and a commitment to our founding ideals, we can address the wrongs of our past and become a more perfect Union—one that ensures liberty, justice, dignity and equality for all. NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2023 as National Native American Heritage Month.

“I urge all Americans, as well as their elected representatives at the Federal, State, and local levels, to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities. Also, I urge all Americans to celebrate November 24, 2023, as Native American Heritage Day,” President Biden said.

Each year, Native American Heritage Month celebrates a different theme. For 2023, that theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” The Department of the Interior explained, “Tribal sovereignty ensures that any decisions about Tribes with regard to their property and citizens are made with their participation and consent. The federal trust responsibility is a legal obligation under which the United States ‘has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust’ toward Indian tribes.”

Cree artist and storyteller Michael A. Koby Turtleheart collaborated with AYA Optical on three frame styles.

There are countless ways to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month—and plenty of resources to help, too. On November 15, the Department of the Interior will be celebrating Rock Your Mocs Day, and invites everyone to participate online by tagging @USIndianAffairs on posts and stories. A calendar is available on the Native American Heritage Month Website, listing a series of educational events including lectures, concerts and artist talks that are scheduled for the month.

The National Park Service encourages all to join the conversation on social media, using the hashtags #IndigenousHeritageMonth or #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth, and has shared a number of resources including a hub for stories of cultural heritage, a list of important places for Native American history and an educators portal.

With November just beginning, there is plenty of time ahead of us to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. From engaging in our local Indigenous communities to spotlighting eyewear created by Indigenous artists like AYA Optical, the optical community can step in and celebrate this special month, too.