November is Native American Heritage Month, and we wanted to take this opportunity to say hello to new friends whom we have not yet met.

We are the first Americans, the indigenous peoples of this land. In fact, we have lived here since time immemorial. We often are ignored in the mainstream media or misrepresented with stereotypes and misinformation, but we are still here.

Although there was no Thanksgiving feast, we did greet many Europeans when they first began arriving here. And we did agree to share this land—with the understanding that we would continue to exist here as we had done for millennia. We would continue to hunt and fish, we would continue our religious traditions and ceremonies, and we would continue to control our lands, waters, and peoples. In fact, we signed agreements with the new United States to document those terms.

Today, with 573 federally recognized tribes and even more state-recognized tribes, we stand five million strong. We are proud citizens of our own Native nations and of the United States. While we pay taxes like all Americans and join the military at a higher rate than any other demographic, we also fight tirelessly to maintain our unique cultural values and traditions. It has not always been easy, but we remain strong and determined, and we bring those experiences, values, and resilience with us in to every sector of American society. We are artists and storytellers, scientists and doctors, lawyers and politicians.

Man at Standing Rock protests. Photo by Tomas Alejo.

We have had to fight to ensure and protect our rights—which is why organizations like the Native American Rights Fund exist—and certainly there have been dark periods in relations between Native nations and the United States. The United States has broken more than 500 treaties with Native peoples. But, recently we find ourselves increasingly under attack. More and more, tribal nations are being challenged by government, corporate, and individual interests who want to ignore our sovereignty and disregard our right to set our own laws and do what is right for our citizens. Some of these struggles have gained national attention: voting rights, sacred places, environmental protections. But other (equally important) fights often go unnoticed, ignored, or misunderstood: child welfare, violence against women, sovereignty and jurisdiction.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and we invite you to take this opportunity to learn more about the ongoing fight for Native rights.

We invite you to learn more about the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and its almost-fifty-year fight for justice. Please visit the NARF website, sign up for emails, and follow us on social media. Don’t limit yourself to the stories that make it into the 24-hour news cycle.

After you learn more, we invite you to interrupt and correct myths, stereotypes, and other false narratives. Share what you learn. Let people know what is happening in Native communities… the successes and the struggles.

We also invite you to be a modern day warrior and support the Native American Rights Fund in the ongoing fight to protect Native rights, sovereignty, and justice. Donate now to protect Native rights and stand firm for justice.

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