Airtable’s mission is to democratize software creation for everyone. Naturally, our mission has helped us attract a diverse community of users, advocates, and employees—and it’s important to us that we celebrate our community’s diversity. Heritage months are a powerful opportunity to amplify the stories and voices of folks from underrepresented backgrounds in the Airtable community.
November 1st marks the start of Native American Heritage Month, and the Airtable team is excited to celebrate. We are looking forward to recognizing, learning about, and celebrating the diversity of cultures and intersectional identities that comprise Native American culture.
This year for Native American Heritage Month, Airtable will approach our celebration through the theme of “Educators.” Educators play a critical role in empowering communities, and highlighting their work offers an opportunity for us to go down a path of intentional learning that's centered around community expertise and voice.
Each week, we will focus on a different educator within the Indigenous community and celebrate their work with a post on our Instagram account: the first educator we’re recognizing is Sequoyah, the multitalented Cherokee man who created a syllabary to make it possible to read and write the Cherokee language. We’ll be posting about more educators as the month goes on, so follow our Instagram account!
Airtable will also bring in a speaker—Sarayl Y. Shunkamolah, Program and Operations Officer for First Nations Development Institute and a member of the Navajo Nation—to share her story and personal experiences, as well as the history and traditions of the Navajo people, with the company.
The history of Native American Heritage Month
Native American Heritage Month was first suggested as “American Indian Day” in 1915 by Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe and director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY at the time. Approval for this idea was sought from different state governments by Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, who traveled to these respective states by horseback. He secured the approval of 24 different states, and presented this at the White House in December of 1915.
From there, many states declared individual days of celebration beginning in 1916 in New York, but there was no nationally recognized holiday until 1990, when President George H. W. Bush designated November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month,” and it has been ever since. It has gone by a number of different names, including “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month” and “Native American Heritage Month.”
Native American Heritage Month is both a time for celebrating the many diverse and rich cultures of tribes living on this continent, while also acknowledging the hardships endured by this community as a result of years of devastating displacement and genocide beginning in the early 17th century by European colonization and settlers. Today 6.9 million people identify as Native American, making up 63 tribes and 574 federally recognized tribal nations. Each tribe has its own culture and traditions, but resilience and reverence for their rich history is consistent across the diaspora.
Where to learn more
Although we often discuss the Native American community as a whole, it is important to note that the Native American community in the U.S. is not homogenous and consists of many distinct tribes and cultures. We understand and acknowledge that when possible, it is best to use the names of specific tribes when referring to people and their identities, or unique issues faced in a particular geographic area. Native Land is an app that is extremely useful for identifying which tribal land you are on, which you can then use to research more about those specific tribes.
If you enjoy reading, First Nations has compiled this list of books for those seeking to learn more about the Native American experience. You can also find a number number of virtual events dedicated to celebrating and educating about Native American Heritage Month at nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov.
Ways to support
While we will be promoting these and more action items throughout the month, we have two organizations we would like to highlight that would benefit greatly from donations.
The aforementioned First Nations Development Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen and empower American Indian communities economically through agriculture, youth programs, health, education, and more. General donations to First Nations that go toward the above mentioned programs can be made here, and donations to First Nations’ COVID-19 emergency response fund can be made here.
Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing legal resources to further their five priorities: preserving tribal existence, protecting tribal natural resources, promoting Native American human rights, holding governments accountable to Native Americans, and developing Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues. Donations to NARF can be made here.
Additionally, there are many Native-owned small businesses and creators that sell beautiful artwork and wearable items, skincare products, food, and entertainment such as books and music. A list of Native-owned businesses, along with further resources, can be found here.