Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, which “is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge 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.” Our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) team is sharing recommendations below that celebrate Native communities through movies, music, books, podcasts, tv shows, and more.

Sharing Native American Stories

via Christa Lane Hooper

To celebrate this month, I’m happy to share stories that celebrate and honor Native American perspectives and experiences. A new FX series Reservation Dogs created by all Indigenous writers, directors, and series regulars makes you laugh and cry. While funny, it also goes deep as it follows teenagers living on a reservation in Oklahoma and takes on mental health issues that are more prevalent for teen Native Americans.

If you want to learn more about the local tribes in the PA area, check out this podcast on the Lenape. And for those of you who have little people at home, we’ve loved sharing and reading these books with our toddler: Fry Bread and We Are Grateful that share Native American stories about food and Cherokee traditions, respectively.

Books by Native American Authors

via Jenny Waldmann

Here are a few books on my “To Be Read” list by Native American authors. I’m looking forward to increasing my knowledge and understanding of Native American perspectives, voices, and experiences through a medium that allows us to truly listen to others’ stories.

1. There There by Tommy Orange

“Tommy Orange’s ‘groundbreaking, extraordinary’ (The New York Times) There There is the ‘brilliant, propulsive’ (People Magazine) story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It’s ‘the year’s most galvanizing debut novel’ (Entertainment Weekly).”

2. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

“As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on ‘a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.’ (Elizabeth Gilbert)”

3. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

“Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.”

The Intersection between Native and LGBTQ+ Two-Spirit People

via Jessica Flamholz

In midst of celebrations and recognition of Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight the intersection – and the lives and contributions – of Native and LGBTQ+ Two-Spirit people.

Before colonialism, many Native tribes acknowledged, respected, and accepted LGBTQ+ folks within their communities. In fact, some tribes recognized a total of five genders. You may have heard the term “Two Spirit,” a relatively-recent blanket term that describes the genderqueer, transgender, and gender fluid folks who were important members of Native societies.

Unfortunately, that respect and inclusivity are not our world today. For LGBTQ+ people, particularly people of color, violence is not new. 2021 is now the deadliest year on record for transgender people, with 45 murders reported to date – mostly of Black or Latinx individuals.

Yet we can’t talk about LGBTQ+ people without including Indigenous and Native people, especially considering the staggering rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America. Violence against the Native LGBTQ+ Two Spirit community in the U.S. has existed for hundreds of years and threatens them today.

Why are we sharing this? Because November 11-19 was Transgender Awareness Week, culminating with the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20. Founded as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was murdered in 1998, Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance that honors the memory of the transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-trans violence, taken because they dared to live their truth. Among them were people like Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, a Native trans and Two Spirit woman of the Oglala Lakota tribe who was the second reported murder of a transgender person in the U.S. in 2017. These stories – and the connections between racism, colonialism, homo- and transphobia, and white supremacy – are inextricably linked.

As we honor their memories, the fight for justice and recognition must create conditions that honor the living – access to housing, employment, healthcare, education, and a world where they are safe, free from violence, and celebrated and loved. Including Native LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit folks in the celebration of Native American Heritage Month gives depth to the past and present and enables us to amplify their lives, voices, and contributions.

For those interested in exploring terms, statistics, and resources, check out this page from the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. To learn about the trans folks we lost this year, please see NYC Anti-Violence Project’s In Memoriam page.

The Truth About the Mayflower: A Podcast

via Jillian Getting

I’d like to recommend the podcast You’re Dead to Me’s episode “The Mayflower.”

“Greg Jenner is joined by historian Dr. Misha Ewen and comedian Alex Edelman to take a trip back in time and across the Atlantic with the passengers of The Mayflower. They ask all the most pertinent questions. What would you pack for a journey to a new world? What’s a great name for a baby born at sea? And just why is a journey that was objectively a gigantic failure held in such high regard in American culture?”

This is a great history podcast that brings together proper historians with comedians to learn about a variety of historical figures, empires, etc. The Mayflower episode was illuminating. I didn’t expect the trip to be so mercenary and for the Mayflower’s landing to be quite inconsequential in the grander scheme of colonial America. Interesting how certain aspects of American history gets elevated to serve a specific purpose.


As we head off for the holiday this week, the JEDI Team would also like to acknowledge the many dialogues around the history of Thanksgiving, and how the predominant cultural narrative is very different from what actually happened. Here are a few resources to create an inclusive space for multiple truths, experiences, and voices:

We also wanted to provide a few resources around land acknowledgements – and how to go beyond an acknowledgement.