Native American Heritage Month is observed annually in November to recognize the histories, cultures, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). There are currently 567 federally recognized tribes and more than 200 additional tribes throughout the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, 6.6 million Americans identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, including those who identify with more than one race. They made up about 2.0 percent of the total population in 2015.1
The AI/AN population is young. Forty-two percent of the AI/AN population is under age 25.2 Approximately 78 percent of AI/AN are identified living outside tribal areas.3 This means that programs outside of tribal communities are very likely serving AI/AN youth and should be prepared to meet the unique needs of this population.
The month-long celebration provides an opportunity to highlight the heritage of Native youth and to educate those who might not be as familiar with Native cultures in order to better understand and celebrate diverse cultures throughout the year.
FYSB’s Tribal PREP Program is responsive to tribal needs, traditions, and cultures while promoting proven and culturally appropriate methods for reducing adolescent pregnancy. A culturally based program results in a holistic approach that is key to the work of Tribal PREP grantees. They recently shared some of their strategies that could be replicated including:
- inviting guest speakers from local tribes to address Adulthood Preparation Subjects (APS)—which empowers youth to be involved in their community, and shares resources from tribal education and career departments;
- building a strong Native identity by participating in the Rock Your Mocs Week by wearing moccasins or a turquoise awareness ribbon;
- establishing relationships with Native American language teachers to incorporate language and traditions into the program—includes storytelling about sexual health, healthy relationships, transitioning from child to adulthood, and life lessons;
- building strong tribal identities by engaging tribal elders to speak to youth about tribal history, share information about tribal culture, and talk about protective factors; and
- offering cultural activities during APS discussions such as beading, basket weaving, and pottery.
During this month and throughout the year, think about ways that you can better reach and support Native youth. Additional ideas and resources for working with AI/AN communities and youth can be found at:
- 2015 ANA Native Youth Compendium
- American Indian and Alaska Native Culture Card - A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness Visit disclaimer page
- Healthy Native Youth Visit disclaimer page
- Native American Heritage Month Visit disclaimer page
- Native Youth Sexual Health Network Visit disclaimer page
- Rock Your Mocs Visit disclaimer page
- Urban Indian Health Institute Visit disclaimer page
- We R Native Visit disclaimer page
- Wise Women Gathering Place Visit disclaimer page