5 Ways to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month at Work

Laura Saracho
October 25, 2023
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Raise your hand if you learned about and celebrated Thanksgiving in school growing up. ✋

Now, raise your hand if you learned about and celebrated Native American Heritage Month.

We thought so.

As we turn the calendar to November, many minds fast-forward to upcoming commercial holidays, like Thanksgiving.

Let’s pause and create space to honor an important, month-long holiday: Native American Heritage Month. This celebration officially kicks off on November 1st. 💚

As we shared in our Hispanic Heritage Month piece, Bonusly is a big believer in acknowledging and celebrating diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds—both on our team and in our communities. So let’s take the spotlight off our stuffing recipes and future PTO plans and take time to learn the history of this month and how to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in the office.

Related: 11 Diversity and Inclusion Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business 

What is Native American Heritage Month?

People have lived in America way before the well-known date of 1492. The history and heritage of Native Americans (also Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians) are connected to all our lives—we should honor the contributions of people who were the first inhabitants of the U.S. 

This celebration can and should occur at work, too! 

Here’s some quick history: 

  • Native American Heritage Month used to be a week-long celebration.
  • In 1986, President Reagan proclaimed November 23-30 as American Indian Week, which would typically fall alongside American Thanksgiving. 
  • Four years later, President George H. W. Bush designated the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month.

Now, remember: we shouldn't celebrate and commemorate Native Americans for a single month only. However, these holidays are an important step forward to bring visibility to traditionally marginalized communities and identities.  🙌

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month in the workplace

Your entire team should be able to openly discuss and celebrate various cultural and ethnic backgrounds—and HR leaders should encourage these conversations. There are 9.7 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the U.S., and it’s possible your team includes folks with Native heritage. Moreover, recognizing and celebrating your team’s racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can help build psychological safety and employee engagement.

Native Americans are the most impoverished of all ethnic communities; a recent study revealed that 1 in 3 Native American adults have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs. Moreover, a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics displays that Native Americans are getting left behind in the remote work economy.

It’s about time to recognize both the rich histories of our colleagues and be aware of our own biases. 

Issues like race can be tough to talk about at work. But it’s always the hard things that are the most important to discuss. Without further ado, here are a few ways to honor and celebrate our rich Native heritage in the workplace.

Four people celebrating native american heritage month

Native American Heritage Month celebration ideas!

1. Acknowledge what Native land your office (or home!) is on

First thing’s first—do you know what Indigenous lands you’re living and working on? There are a handful of handy maps that will help you do just that. Simply type in your address and discover which Indigenous people lived and took care of this land before us. 

When it comes to the workplace, you can acknowledge the land you’re on in a few ways:

  • Give thanks to the tribe and its land at the start of meetings.
  • Tag your social media posts with Native land locations.
  • Pool together funds and donate to a charity of your choice.

2. Attend an event with your team

There are a lot of fun, educational events happening this month. So why not skip your typical Zoom happy hour and attend an event to learn more about Indigenous culture?

For starters, check out the events listed on the official Native American Heritage Month website or take a peek at the National Park Service calendar. The Library of Congress and National Archives are other great places to look.

If you’re interested in something local and you’re comfortable meeting in person, check out your local institutions—libraries, schools, community organizations, and museums—for special events.

3. Get your team book club to read a work by a Native American 

Does your team have a book club? Yes? Great! If not, what better time to start one than right now? 📚

A great way to learn about Native American history and culture is to read stories authored by Native American authors. A quick Google search can go a long way, but there are some recommendations to get you started:

  • Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice
  • Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty 
  • This Accident of Being Lost, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
  • Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq
  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Once you have a book in mind, head to an Indigenous-owned bookstore to make your purchase.

4. Support Native-owned business 

We get it—Amazon is convenient. But it’s important to put our money where our mouths are and consider shopping at places that support marginalized communities’ economic well-being. Bonus points if they are local, too! With the holidays coming up, it’s a great idea to source gifts from small business owners, including Native-owned shops. (Yes—you can find native-owned stores on Etsy!) 

Browse this directory of Native American-owned businesses on The American Indian Business Alliance website—you can swap your office Starbucks brew with Native-owned and operated coffee beans. Or check out these beautiful offerings from home decor to cosmetics and clothes for your upcoming office gift swap.

5. Discuss and swap podcast recommendations

Whether you’re back in the office having water cooler conversations or recreating a virtual version, here’s a question: what podcast are you listening to? Consider subscribing to a podcast that typically isn’t in your queue; the Native community has a ton of interesting podcasts that offer amazing Indigenous storytelling to share with your coworkers. Who says you can’t have a book club and podcast club?

Here are a few great listens and conversation starters: 

Your next steps

It’s never too late to plan a work event or spark a thoughtful conversation to honor and commemorate Native American Heritage Month. Let us know in the comments below what you end up doing, or if there are other ways to celebrate Native culture in the workplace that we missed!

And while we have you, check out these additional ways to learn about and celebrate diverse communities in the workplace:

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