Indigenous Peoples Month
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
I acknowledge I live on the unceded land of the Dena’ina people. I also acknowledge all Indigenous people of Alaska. Thank you for your past and present stewardship of the land, waters, plants, and animals of this place.
November is Indigenous Peoples Month (also known as Alaska Native Heritage Month, and American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month). This is the time we celebrate the traditions, languages, stories, and contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Island communities. Our Indigenous people are an important part of our history and culture, especially here in Alaska. Alaskan Native people were here centuries before settlers arrived, and their stewardship of the land and waters still make a deep impact on our state.
Unfortunately, Alaska history is full of examples of colonialism and mistreatment of Alaska Natives and American Indians. Enslavement by Russians, abuse in American boarding schools, and the U.S. interment during World War II come first to mind. There are many more instances of prejudice and discrimination, some going on today. Throughout, Indigenous people have endured and made great strides to make Alaska a better place.
Our history reflects the contributions of many Indigenous individuals. I’ve written about a few of them. Elizabeth Peratrovich helped us pass a state civil rights bill. (See more about her at this post: https://www.lynnlovegreen.com/post/women-s-history-month-elizabeth-peratrovich.) Eben Hopson and Frank Peratrovich served in the first Alaska state legislature. (See my post https://www.lynnlovegreen.com/post/the-first-alaska-state-legislature.) Willie Hensley and many others guided the federal government to create ANCSA. (See this post for more ANCSA history: https://www.lynnlovegreen.com/post/ancsa-history.) Many more have influenced our government and society over the years.
I hesitate to make lists for fear of leaving out stellar examples. But I will share a few names to give you an idea of the length and breath of prominent Alaska Natives in our culture. We have our share of Alaska Native athletes, from dog mushers like George Attla, John Baker, and Pete Kaiser, to basketball player Damen Bell-Holter to Ninja Warrior Nick ‘Iligutchiak’ Hanson. We have artists from Alvin Amason to Nathan Jackson to Susie Bevins Ericson to Sonya Kelliher-Combs to Crystal Worl. And of course, I can’t forget Alaskan Native authors and illustrators, from Ernestine Hayes to Ishmael Hope to C. G. Williams for adult books, and Barbara and Ethan Atwater to Michaela Goede for children’s books. No matter what your passion is, there is an Alaskan Indigenous individual you’d want to know more about.
As I write this, Mary Peltola is serving as our first Alaska Native woman in Congress. I am one of thousands of her fans. The future is bright, due in large part to our Indigenous Alaskans. Thank you.