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Nation Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

People wearing traditional Native American clothing stand and hold flags while facing a standing audience outdoors.
Presenting the Colors
Members of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society and Zotigh Singers present the colors during a celebration at the Pentagon for National Native American Heritage Month, Nov. 8, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 231108-D-PM193-2063R

President Joe Biden issued a National Native American Heritage Month proclamation for the month of November calling attention to the service of Native Americans.

The proclamation states: "Despite centuries of violence and oppression, Native peoples remain resilient and proud. Today, Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group.  

"They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward."

Ashish S. Vazirani, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the Defense Department recognizes November as National American Indian Heritage Month. 

"This year's theme is 'Tribal Nations Soaring to New Heights.' American Indians and Alaska Natives have a long history of military service. During World War II, the legendary contributions of Navajo Code Talkers were critical for U.S. success. Similarly, Alaska Natives fearlessly defended U.S. territories from Japanese raids. 

"Many American Indians and Alaska Natives serving today cite a desire to follow in the footsteps of their family members and have a deep patriotism for protecting and serving their homeland," he said.

A civilian wearing a shell necklace speaks at a lectern outdoors.
Celebration Remarks
Alicia Sylvester, the Defense Department's senior tribal advisor and liaison, speaks during a celebration at the Pentagon for National Native American Heritage Month, Nov. 8, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 231108-D-PM193-2858

Alicia Madalena Sylvester, from the Pueblo of Jemez tribe, is the Defense Department's senior tribal advisor and liaison for Native American affairs. She and others spoke today at the Pentagon's National Native American Heritage Month celebration.

Native American men and women serve in the armed forces at five times the national average, Sylvester said. They have served with distinction in every conflict since the birth of this country. 

"As Native American veterans have pledged their service to the nation, the Department of Defense is also committed to fulfilling its legal and moral responsibilities," she said. "I want to assure all tribal leaders present here that DOD is committed to ensuring that government-to-government consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are consistently timely, respectful, meaningful and robust."

Two dancers in traditional native clothing stand outdoors.
Dance Duo
Dancers perform during a celebration at the Pentagon for National Native American Heritage Month, Nov. 8, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza, DOD
VIRIN: 231108-D-PM193-2380

The Pentagon event included tribal dances from different Native American tribes. "It is truly a blessing to hear the songs, the native language, and drumbeats throughout the Pentagon courtyard and within our corridors," she added.

According to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, the 2023 National American Indian Heritage Month poster depicts America's landscape interspersed with symbols that depict American Indian and Alaskan Native achievements and contributions.

The poster is also an ode to the "Skywalkers." Iroquois ironworkers, especially Mohawks, are legendary for their dizzying work in erecting skyscrapers and steel bridges. Mohawk men have walked and worked on nearly all of New York City's towering buildings, including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center. In Pittsburgh, they worked on the U.S. Steel Building, the Civic Arena, and the Fort Pitt Bridge, among other structures.

Graphic illustration featuring the U.S. Capitol and other structures, a rocket ship and a soaring bird.
New Heights
Tribal Nations Soaring to New Heights poster.
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 231101-D-D0439-101

During the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau identified the following numbers of Native peoples who identify solely as Native American and who are U.S. residents:  

American Indian: 2,159,802
Latin American Indian: 766,112
Alaska Native: 133,311
Canadian Indian: 7,723

The census also recorded the following number of U.S. residents who identified as Native Americans of mixed race: 

American Indian: 6,363,796
Latin American Indian: 1,319,523
Alaska Native: 241,797
Canadian Indian: 72,701

There are hundreds of Native tribes in the Western Hemisphere. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, highest population tribes identified in the 2020 census are:  

Aztec: 387,122
Navajo: 315,086
Cherokee: 214,940
Maya: 180,359
Choctaw: 69,454
Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina: 54,293
Muscogee (Creek) Nation: 40,677
Chippewa: 39,057
Apache: 36,492
Blackfeet Tribe of Montana: 34,810
Cherokee Nation: 31,432
Sioux: 30,408
Taino: 28,346
Maya Central America: 18,942
Alaska Native: 241,797
Mexican Indian: 15,235

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