Native American Heritage Month 2023

Native american heritage month - november 2023

Dear Colleagues,

Each year since November 1990, the nation pauses to recognize and celebrate the many contributions that Native Americans have made to our nations today. Corroborated by recent scientific findings , Tribal Nations of the Americas have existed for tens of thousands of years. In 1832, Supreme Court case Worcester v. Georgia recognized that Tribal Nations are distinct political communities that have the right to govern themselves (Pevar, 2012). Tribal governments have been used as a model for many world nations including the United States that use representative democratic political structures. Tribal Nations retain their own rights to govern themselves and create laws to protect their people and lands.

Native identity is complex as Native Americans are not only a racialized group of people, but are also people connected to distinct, sovereign governments and who maintain their cultural traditions. Ultimately, recognition during the month of November is important as Native Americans make up approximately 1.3% of the country’s total population. There are over 575 Tribal Nations recognized by the federal government and many more self-governing entities that do not yet have this federal status. California has over 109 Native Nations and San Diego County is recognized nationally for having the most Federally Recognized nations at 18. Native American people exist and thrive in modern times and are not a people of the past

Theme: Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity 

Additionally, every year, the Department of the Interior designates a theme to further honor the numerous traditions, people and stories of Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and affiliated Island communities in an effort to bring Indigenous people to the forefront of national dialogue. This year’s theme for 2023 is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” As we pause this month to learn about, honor and celebrate Native American Heritage Month, let us recognize what Tribal Sovereignty and Identity means.

Progress Achieved

San Diego State University has a commitment to respectfully acknowledge, celebrate and serve the Kumeyaay communities and all tribal nations. The past few years of strategic initiatives have shown a focus on strengthening support and presence for the Native American/Indigenous body of students at SDSU. This academic year, we celebrate some significant milestones. SDSU is celebrating 10 years of our Elymash Yuuchaap (EY) Indigenous Scholars and Leaders Program. The EY program supports the academic, cultural and social success of Native and Indigenous students. Beginning in Fall 2023, students participating in the EY program now receive full tuition grants to remove financial barriers that prevent Native and Indigenous students from attempting to earn a college degree.

Please Join Us

Throughout this month, we invite all members of the SDSU community to participate and engage in the Native American Heritage Month events which are designed to honor and create visibility for many different Native American Nations in the United States and beyond. Native American Heritage Month events are hosted collaboratively across Divisions and with new auxiliary partners to include the following:

Events will be centered around activism, art, stories, histories and so much more:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: Ribbon Dreams/Wishes Craft at Noon (NRC)
    • To kick-off NAHM, the NRC will create an interactive art piece with traditional ribbons. To participate, please stop by the NRC to share a wish/dream/or goal for your community and see your contribution come to life.
  • Friday, Nov. 3: Community Tea: A Cup of Stories from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (NRC)
    • Join the NRC for a conversation about tea and the traditions of Indigenous and East Asian ceremonies as we share teas together!
  • Monday, Nov. 6: An Indigenous Conceptual Framework Guiding School Psychology Practice with Native American Youth, Families and Communities from 4-6 p.m. (Zoom
    • This is a framework developed by the Indigenous American Work Group of the National Association of School Psychologists. It centers culture and identity and integrates the dynamic relationships of four aspects of being human, and four concepts central to building healthy relationships in work with Indigenous youth, families, and communities.
  • Thursday, Nov. 9: Equipping Caffeine and Other Energy Sources from 12:30-1:30 p.m. (NRC)
    • Join the NRC to learn more about utilizing caffeine and other sources of energy to fuel productivity.
  • Monday, Nov. 13: Reconnecting with Natural Elements from Noon-2 p.m. starting at the NRC and moving to the Mediterranean Garden
    • Come to the NRC to watch a presentation on how to connect with natural elements as an alternative to traditional therapy. Then join us as we head over to the Mediterranean Garden to clean the American Indian Art Benches and do some embroidery while being surrounded by natural elements.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 14: Nike N7 Native Night from 5-9 p.m. (Viejas Arena) 
    • Each November, SDSU Men's Basketball partners with Nike N7 as part of a special celebration during Native American Heritage Month. Nike N7 is Nike's commitment to bring sports and all of its benefits to Native American communities. San Diego State University makes a departure from their traditional colors for the game, donning turquoise Nike N7 uniforms. The game include special ceremonies and performances honoring Native American communities and culture
  • Wednesday, Nov. 15: MOBI x NRC Collab from Noon-1 p.m. (NRC)
    • MOBI & NRC are collaborating to bring you another cultural cooking class! November's class will bring Guest Chef Ivan Sam to the NRC to teach us how to make a Three Sister's stew. Sign up EARLY! There are only 10 spots available.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 15: Intro to Higher Education: Grad School 101 from 3-4 p.m. (NRC)
    • Are you interested in learning more about graduate school? Join the NRC as we discuss an overview of what grad school is, what you can do with a higher degree, and how to look for programs.
  • Thursday, Nov. 16: Indigenous Book Club from 2-3 p.m. (NRC)
    • Throughout fall term we've been reading "The Night Watchman" by Louise Erdrich. Join us for our monthly gathering as we discuss chapters 33 through 64. Stop by the NRC to pick up a copy of the book.
  • Monday, Nov. 20: Faculty Appreciation
    • We will be taking time to celebrate the professional accomplishments of our professors and their dedication to Indigenous issues. We will be recognizing multiple promotions, retirements, book projects, and more.  
  • Wednesday, Nov. 29: Talking Circle from 2-4 p.m. (NRC)
    • Indigenous Talking Circles are a way for our community to come together to engage in meaningful dialogue. Join us for our November Talking Circle to discuss topics surrounding Native and Indigenous identities. 

To learn about all the events taking place, please visit: 

NAHM Event Information will be on the NRC website page 
NRC Instagram: @sdsunrc
NRC Facebook: @NRCSDSU

In solidarity,

Christy Samarkos
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity

Chris Medellin
Director for the Native Resource Center

Jacob Alvarado Waipuk
Chair for Tribal Relations, Tribal Liaison 

David Kamper, Ph.D. 
Chair for American Indian Studies