Reflections and Celebrations During Thanksgiving Holiday and Native American Heritage Month

Published on Nov 21, 2012

Friday Nov. 23, 2012 Proclaimed by President Obama as Native American Heritage Day

Washington, D.C. – The Thanksgiving holiday is a time of reflection, remembrance, and celebration. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) joins all Americans in celebrating the diverse cultures and traditions that makes America so unique. It’s also a time to reflect on the shared history and future, of citizens of tribal nations – American Indians and Alaska Natives - and the United States.

The following is a statement regarding the Thanksgiving Holiday, by Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI: 

“Thanksgiving and the month of November, Native American Heritage Month,  are an important time for the nation to renew a year-round commitment to honoring and strengthening the relationship between tribal nations and the United States. We also commend President Obama for proclaiming the day after Thanksgiving, November 23, 2012 as Native American Heritage Day.

These days mark important times for reflection by the United States and tribal nations. We have a long shared history between our nations and citizens. Essential to our future as nations is our progress as an American family of governments, including tribal nations and Native peoples, and it is important we come together in celebration to share in the traditions we all cherish, and reflect on our shared history.

Our tribal nations and our people are strong. With over 600 tribal nations, both federal and state recognized tribes, and more than 5.2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people in the United States, our shared future will be determined by our unique contributions to the North American and global community.

While there have been many dark days in our shared history, our tribal sovereignty – outlined in the United States Constitution and upheld in legal documents over the centuries - is one of our greatest rights and we honor that right by celebrating our tribal nations every day of the year.  

We also keep in our thoughts all men and women, Native and non-Native, who serve to protect our sovereignty and our nations, serving in the United States Military, and those veterans who have served so bravely but have not returned to their families and communities. Our prayers are with them and the over 22,000 active duty Native service members, the 150,000 Native American veterans, and all those service members and families affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We pray for their safe return and for a bright future for those veterans who have returned to contribute to their communities as civilians.

We believe in a prosperity that is enjoyed by all people and I am proud to speak on behalf of the members of the National Congress of American Indians and join with the rest of our American family in celebrating the hope all of our great nations offer to this world.”

Background Information on Native American Heritage Month & Native American Heritage Day

November is also Native American Heritage Month – a month long national celebration of the historic and contemporary contributions Native people make to their nations and the United States. For more information visit

Following an over twenty-year old tradition, President Barack Obama declared November National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, remarking in his proclamation, “Native Americans are leaders in every aspect of our society -- from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the battlefield. This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our Nation, and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe's identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

This proclamation also marks, November 23rd, the day following Thanksgiving, as Native American Heritage Day.

Download the White House’s Native American Heritage proclamation here.
Demographic Snapshot
  • The Native American population is fast growing- in the 2010 Census, 5.2 million people or 1.7 percent of the US population identified as American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) alone or in combination with other races, an overall increase of 27 percent. Download more information on demographics here.
  • According to 2010 U.S. Census there are over 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans living in the United States and ten percent of these veterans are women. The Pentagon estimates that well over 22,000 American Indian and Alaska Native active duty personnel currently serve across the Armed Forces.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs now recognizes 566 federally recognized tribes, with 229 of those tribes and villages located in Alaska; the remaining tribes are located in 34 other states.
  • In total, tribal governments exercise jurisdiction over lands that would make Indian Country the fourth largest state in the United States if all the lands were combined.
  • The Navajo Nation is larger than each of the following states: Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.
  • 19 tribal nations are each larger than the state of Rhode Island.
  • 12 have a land base larger than the state of Delaware.
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