HUD Logo
Site Map         A-Z Index         Text   A   A   A
Native American Heritage


November is designated Native American Heritage Month. What began in 1915 as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the recognition of the significant contributions the First Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States has blossomed into a month-long national celebration of both Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This month federal, state and local agencies and communities host special events to recognize National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

Indians of the Past

Some of the names in this presentation are names as they were at the time this book was published and written with former names of tribal nations that have since been changed. A tribe called Papago are now known as Tohono O'Odaham that means "People of the Desert". Also, Sioux are now refered to as Lakota or Dakota referring to the dialects of their language. There are many history books in our school systems and libraries written with former names and need to be corrected.

 -   Indians of the Past (MS-PowerPoint)

President Issues Proclamation for National Native American Heritage Month 2007

The HUD American Indian Special Emphasis group
is conducting a Native American Heritage Month event on:

Tuesday, November 25th at 11:00 to 12:00 in the Departmental Conference Room there will be a "Musical History Demonstration" by Native American flutist named Ron Warren.

In the Washington DC area, several federal agencies, such as the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, will have activities and events throughout the month. Check out their websites:

 -   National Museum of the American Indian
 -   U.S. Indian Health Service

The following is a brief history of National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

Native American Stories and other news for Native American Heritage Month

The Mandan Tribe: The Three Affiliated Tribes- Hidatsa, Arikara, and Mandan- of Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

Today the Mandan Tribe, who call themselves "the People of the First Man," is part of The Three Tribes of Fort Berthold. The other two tribes making up this affiliation are the Hidatsa, and Arikara (who call themselves Sahnish.) The Tribes believe their presence in North America is from the beginning of time; and, as testament to this theory, fine-quality Knife River flint tools have been found thousands of miles away in sites 7-9,000 years old, distributed by ancient trading networks.

The Mandan tribal heritage goes back many centuries. Around 900 A.D. a group of Indians reached what are now the plains of South Dakota. Originally from the east coast and southeastern regions of the North American continent, they began to move slowly northward over the years, following a path that generally paralleled the Missouri River. Being farmers, they chose to build their villages near the fertile flood plains of the river. About 130 former village sites have been located along the Missouri by modern archeologists, of which probably no more than 10% were occupied at any one given time.

 -   Read more about the Mandan Tribe's history, lifestyle, territory, and involvement with the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Mutual Origin of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indian Nations

IN A TIME long since past, there lived somewhere in the West a tribe of Indians constantly warred upon by a powerful enemy. Because of the never ending attacks, the people of this tribe enjoyed little of the peace and comfort for which they so deeply yearned.

In time, the families who lived nearest the enemy and who, over the years, had borne the brunt of enemy assaults became so weary and heavy-hearted that they appealed to their wise prophets to find a solution to the problem

The men of wisdom held a special consultation. They sat around the council fire and deliberated for many hours, and, most important, they sought guidance from Ubabeneli, The Creator of all things, who sat above the clouds and directed the destiny of all.

At last, the prophets concluded their deliberations. They summoned their fellow tribesmen and told them of the decision they had reached.

The people, said the wise men, would seek a new home where they could find peace and happiness. Their guide to the new land would be a kohta falaya (long pole). This kohta falaya, though, was no ordinary pole. It was something extra special, for it had been made sacred by Ubabeneli.

At the end of each day's journey, the prophets explained, the sacred pole would be stuck into the ground so that it stood perfectly straight. Each morning the pole would be carefully examined, and in whatever direction it was leaning, that would be the direction of travel.

That procedure was to be repeated until the kohta falaya leaned no more. And when that happened, the people would know it was a divine sign from Ubabeneli that their journey was over, and their new home had been reached.

 -   (Continue reading about the Chickasaw...)

First Agriculturists

Indians were the first farmers in North America, and agriculture has been a mainstay of the American Indian culture and economy for thousands of years. In fact, the Indians of Central America and Mexico were engaged in agriculture 7,000 years before Europeans settled in the present-day United States.

Archaeological evidence indicates that American Indians began farming in what later became the continental United States by 5000 B.C., using indigenous agricultural practices as well as practices learned from Mexican and Central American cultures. By A.D. 1000, American Indian farmers had developed a productive and complex agricultural system based on corn, beans, and squash, commonly referred to as the "three sisters." -- from the Guide to USDA Programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (excerpt) September 23, 2004

The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribes and a special relationship with Alaska native entities as provided in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, and Federal statutes. Presidents for decades have recognized this relationship. President Nixon announced a national policy of self-determination for Indian tribes in 1970. More recently, Executive Order 13175, entitled "Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments," was issued in 2000. I reiterated my Administration's adherence to a government-to-government relationship and support for tribal sovereignty and self-determination earlier this year in Executive Order 13336, entitled "American Indian and Alaska Native Education."

My Administration is committed to continuing to work with federally recognized tribal governments on a government-to-government basis and strongly supports and respects tribal sovereignty and self-determination for tribal governments in the United States. I take pride in acknowledging and reaffirming the existence and durability of our unique government-to-government relationship and these abiding principles. "George W. Bush

Facts about Indian Gaming:

Currently, Indian gaming is the highest profile economic activity in Indian Country. Although community games have been an integral part of tribal culture from time immemorial, modern tribal gaming has become a critical source of revenue for many tribes. Tribes have long searched for a means of raising revenue for government programs and social welfare that could help raise their members out of extreme poverty. With tribal unemployment rates often approaching 70 percent on many Indian reservations, most forms of taxation proved ineffective. Taking a cue from the states" efforts to raise revenue through lotteries in the 1970s and 1980s, several tribes began to exercise their inherent sovereign right to regulate their own territory and offer high-stakes bingo on their Indian lands. In the 1987 Cabazon case, the Supreme Court affirmed this sovereign right of tribes to regulate gaming on Indian lands located in states where gaming is regulated.

Soon after the Court's decision in the Cabazon case, Congress passed legislation limiting tribal sovereignty over gaming regulation with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA). IGRA established a complex regulatory scheme. While state-sanctioned gaming is only regulated by state government, Indian gaming offered to the public is always regulated by at least two governments: tribal government gaming regulators and the National Indian Gaming Commission, an independent federal agency. In states where full casino-style tribal gaming is permitted by a government-to-government agreement between the tribe and the state (known as a gaming compact), gaming regulation by state government adds a third government regulating Indian gaming. --from Working with Tribal Governments and Organizations [HUD], 2005.

Religious Freedom for Indians:

The struggle for religious freedom has been a long and bitter one from the perspective of American Indians. After the Civil War, when the government adopted a policy of actively and directly administering Indian communities, the government set about an effort aimed at changing the individual's behavior, beliefs, and practices so as to make Indians conform with the norms of the dominant society. A major aspect of this effort was directed at compelling Indians to abandon traditional religions and religious practices. While direct government efforts to eradicate Indian religions waned toward the middle of the Twentieth Century, traditional practitioners of Indian religions nonetheless have continued to face tremendous barriers to the free exercise of their religions.

Conservation laws, federal land management policies, and a general insensitivity with regard to the needs of tribal traditionalists for access to places of religious significance have combined to make it extremely difficult for tribes and tribal members to maintain their belief systems. Recognizing the injustices resulting from a century of suppression, the Congress acted to address these impediments for the first time in 1978 with the enactment of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Act was intended to encourage the government to "protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian . . . including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites." --from Working with Tribal Governments and Organizations {HUD], 2005.

Oldest managed forest

The oldest managed forest on the North American continent is located on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin. The tribe has practiced sustained yield management of its timber since the 1850s, when the reservation was established. Today, their forest management practices are studied as a model by representatives of the timber industry from all over the world. The forest so clearly defines the boundaries of the reservation that it is clearly visible to astronauts on the space shuttle.

More Stories on the Heritage Archive