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Celebrating Culture: The History and Importance of Native American Heritage Month

Abraham Mendieta | November 4, 2022

Every November, we observe Native American Heritage Month to honor the history, contributions, cultures and lives of Native Americans. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 7.1 million people reported American Indian, Native American or Alaska Native heritage. But how did this celebration come to be, and what can we do to protect and champion Native Americans’ legacy?

Native American Heritage Month history

Efforts to officially recognize Native American Heritage Month date back to 1915. But it wasn’t until 1990 when President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution that designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month. According to the National Archives, since 1994, similar proclamations have been made each year using variants on the name.

Native Americans contribute immensely to society through their traditions, practices and history. Today, Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity for people to learn about and amplify the culture of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country.

Cultural impact

America’s story is intertwined with its relationship to and treatment of those who originally lived here.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Heritage Month is a time to:

  • celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and history
  • acknowledge important contributions
  • educate the general public about tribes
  • raise awareness about the unique challenges Native Americans have faced historically and currently

By understanding Native American history and hardship, we take steps to break down the harmful systems that hamper Indigenous people everywhere.

What to do

There are a lot of ways to respectfully celebrate and honor Native American Heritage Month. This November, try:

  • exploring Native American authors, creators, educators and entertainers
  • learning about traditional lands, treaties and land acknowledgments
  • seeking out local events celebrating different Native American cultures
  • digging into Native American history, struggles and achievements
  • researching your Native American heritage, if applicable

Museums like the First Americans Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian provide in-depth information about the culture, triumphs and art of Native Americans. The National Archives also offer many resources, historical documents and insight.

The power of diversity

At Paycom, we know diversity strengthens us. By cultivating an inclusive workplace, providing opportunities to have better conversations and forming employee resource groups, we encourage employees to share and celebrate their stories.

We also sponsor the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award. Awarded annually to college football’s top defensive back in the country by Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the award honors one of the most versatile athletes in sports history, Jim Thorpe. According to Oklahoma Historical Society, Thorpe was an American Indian usually considered to be Sac and Fox, but whose ancestry included the Potawatomi, Menominee, and Kickapoo tribes, as well as Irish and French ancestors. Thorpe was known also as Wa-tho-huck, “Bright Path” in the Sac and Fox language. Thorpe’s accomplishments are numerous and include:

  • playing 52 games on six NFL teams
  • making 91 runs over six MLB seasons
  • winning two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics
  • leading the World-Famous Indians traveling basketball team
  • winning the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship

Unique perspectives and cultures make us better. Inclusion means different things to different people; ultimately, it’s about creating an environment where everyone feels heard and appreciated for who they are.

Do you want to join a diverse, inclusive and industry-leading team? Learn more about a career at Paycom and apply today!

About the author
Author picture, Abraham Mendieta
Abraham Mendieta
As an employer brand marketer, Abraham Mendieta helps the recruiting teams engage top talent and increase brand awareness. Mendieta is a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he earned degrees in both sociology and advertising. His efforts on Paycom’s employer brand team include company culture; careers; and diversity, equity and inclusion. Outside work, Abraham enjoys reading, going to the gym, spending time outdoors and hanging out with his family and friends.