Guest Opinion.  Native and Indigenous people live, thrive, and lead across the United States and around the world. Our people are a living testament of resistance, resilience, and revitalization. This country has a history of treating our people with cruelty and apathy but despite this, Native people have continued to persevere. Unfortunately, there are many people that continue their attempts to silence us and erase us and our humanity.

Native American Heritage Month, which is commemorated during November, should serve as a stark reminder of the power and strength that Native people hold but let me be clear: Native people deserve to be seen and celebrated all 365 days of the year. Today and every day going forward, we need to uplift and advocate for Native peoples, not just during the month of November.

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For those that may need a little guidance, here are a few ways for you to support Indigenous leadership, Native-led organizations, and Native communities and advocates and celebrate Native American Heritage Month in a significant and meaningful way. 

  1. Educate yourselves and others. Too often, Native peoples are asked to educate, curate, or provide their expertise during Native American Heritage Month without proper compensation or recognition. This month, take the initiative and do your own work to educate yourself on both the history of Native peoples but also our contemporary life. Sometimes learning means confronting uncomfortable truths about how you have contributed to the erasure of Native peoples. Embrace the discomfort, that means you’re growing. 
  1. Make space for Indigenous people in your life.  Are you following Native creators on social media? Are you reading Native authors? Are you watching Native created film and TV?  How about Native podcasters? If not, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to witness and enjoy the talent of Native creatives. And for those that are in a position of power – are you creating opportunities to embrace and uplift Native peoples at your company? In your writer’s room? On your runway? You’ll find that diversity invites innovation and genius. 
    Crystal Echo Hawk (Photo/IllumiNative)
  1. Support Native-led movements and organizations. Amplify and donate to Native-led organizations. By prioritizing support to Native-led organizations, you are supporting Native-led solutions. Be an advocate and make space for Native peoples. We face and are impacted by the same issues and often, our ancestors have already developed a way of solving them a long time ago. Look at cultural burns for example. How many wildfires could this country have prevented if they adopted cultural burns earlier? Supporting Native-led movements and solutions is beneficial to us all, so speak up when you don’t see Native organizations or leaders included. 
  1. Support Native owned businesses and companies. Buy from Native artists and designers and encourage your friends to as well. Don’t be a gatekeeper! Native artists and creators are innovative and many support and give back to their communities, prioritize sustainability practices, and uplift other Native artists. There are Native-led companies in almost every industry. If you’re looking to buy coffee, make-up, jewelry, art, books, clothes – consider buying them from a Native entrepreneur. 

How will you show up and be an ally to Native peoples, not just in November? These practices should be intentional and ongoing. We can create a more just and equitable world by supporting Indigenous people all year round. 

To learn more about how you can be an ally to Native peoples, visit illuminatives.org. 

Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation of Oklahama) is the founder, president and CEO of IllumiNative, a nonprofit initiative designed to increase the visibility of – and challenge the negative narrative about – Native Nations and peoples in American society.

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