Native American Heritage Month a great time to discover your history


November marks “Native American Heritage Month.” This designation recognizes the history of Native people and their unique place in American society.

Native American Heritage Month had its beginnings more than 100 years ago. The Boy Scouts of America set aside a “First Americans Day.” In 1915, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the second Saturday of each May “American Indian Day.”

What is recognized today as Native American Heritage Month came into being in 1990. President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution of Congress designating November “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

During this month, it is appropriate to recognize the great strides we have made together in establishing building blocks that help lead to happy and successful lives. The Chickasaw Nation continues to build on that successful foundation in so many different ways.

More Chickasaws than ever before today own their own homes. Many Chickasaw home owners have realized their dreams by accessing the excellent home ownership programs available through the Chickasaw Nation. Potential Chickasaw home owners can receive assistance with mortgage selection, financing, credit building, costs and fees, structure and more. Our tribe functions as a helpful partner with Chickasaw families as they select and purchase the homes that work for them. It is always a terrific feeling to experience the joy of a Chickasaw family closing on its first home!

We are all very aware of the depth of the Chickasaw Nation’s commitment to education. Our tribe has a long, storied history of supporting education and seeking out the very best education opportunities for our citizens.

The Chickasaw Nation now funds more higher education, vocational and specialty training and certification grants and scholarships than at any time in our history. Thousands of Chickasaw students benefit each year. They can access assistance with tuition, books, tutoring, computers, training equipment and so much more.

Our goals as a tribe line up perfectly with the goals of our Chickasaw students. We all want the very best hand up, and the very highest potential for success we can achieve together. Our efforts together – tribe and student – are paying big dividends. We are meeting with significant success. It is always a great feeling to watch a Chickasaw student walk across the graduation stage to collect his or her diploma!

These programs are just samples of the many things we now have available for citizens. It is awesome to consider where we were in our tribal development just 50 short years ago. We have traveled a long and successful path together! This type of Chickasaw achievement can be put in perspective by simply doing a bit of study.

There are lots of resources available to you to lead you as you discover more about Indian history, and your place in it.

The Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of the American Indian, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art all offer excellent information and curriculum. These are great places to start and open your mind to the possibilities. And for teachers, this is the perfect opportunity to share Chickasaw and Indian heritage lessons with students.

Of course, the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Okla., is ready to help you. The Holisso Center is the perfect place to learn about your tribe and your Chickasaw heritage. Take a day for discovery at the Cultural Center. You will be glad you did!

There are so many ways today to reconnect with the Chickasaw Nation. Our Chickasaw language program is a great place to not only learn your traditional language, but also make connection with Chickasaws who will help guide your study. The Chickasaw Press offers a terrific selection of titles for you to enjoy. Go online at Chickasaw.tv and view the fantastic Chickasaw stories on “Profiles of a Nation.” If you are a Chickasaw youth, you can access any number of great tribal programs that will help lead you on the path of discovery about yourself and your tribe. And remember, your Chickasaw elders serve as “living encyclopedias” to help you discover your history.

This month, Native American Heritage Month, resolve to strengthen your connection to the Chickasaw Nation. You will discover a whole new world waiting for you!