So, what happens during Native American Heritage Month? Also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, these 30 days are dedicated to recognizing the resilience, rich history and countless contributions of Native Americans across the country. In addition to the monthlong celebration, the day after Thanksgiving has been recognized as Native American Heritage Day since 2009.
There's a whole sector of Indigenous influencers who are sharing their culture with the world through content that's educational, clever, heartwarming and funny (often all at once!). Whether it's a TikTok video of the traditional jingle dress dance or an Instagram post featuring stunning regalia, these are mini history classes that you'd never experience in a lecture hall. And whether you're logging in as an Indigenous person or not, hopefully you'll be inspired to be proud of who you are and what makes you unique.
We've rounded up our favorite Indigenous influencers and creators below -- Native American Heritage Month is a fitting time to discover them, but they're worthy follows for the long haul.
Influencer James Jones promises his 2 million followers a feed that's full of "Indigenous art, culture, good vibes and fry bread." But his feed doesn't reflect how his life has always looked -- formerly homeless, James says he turned his life around after reconnecting with his Indigenous culture: the dress, the ceremonies, the hoop dancing, the music. James told Vogue that when he originally joined TikTok at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, he had intentions of using the platform to showcase his comedy chops. "I started making funny Indigenous humor videos at first," he said, "but soon realized people engaged much more with educational and cultural dance content from me.”
A friend and business partner of James Jones (and a fellow hoop dancer), Marika Sila has gained a sizable social audience by creating empowering content for young Indigenous women. The Inuit actress and performer's feeds are a mix of dances, stunts, raising awareness about the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, tips for being a good ally and the importance of mental health. "I feel like it is a healthy balance between education and entertainment where I am able to catch the public’s attention and help spread some awareness at the same time," she recently told Canadian publication Vita Daily.
Food and fashion blogger Alana Yazzie tries to add a "fancy Navajo twist" to everything she does. Her recipes, for example, often incorporate ingredients made or produced by American Indians. Just a couple we can't wait to try: the Fancy Navajo Blue Corn Cookies and her mom's Mutton Stew.
Nike's N7 brand celebrates Native American heritage and empowers Native youth to start and keep moving. N7 designer Tracie Jackson, a fourth-generation Diné artisan, honors the skills she learned from her great-grandmother in the sustainable footwear and apparel she designs. "My work is helping educate and give Native people a platform in the fashion world," Tracie states on her website. "Native Indigenous people are some of the most underrepresented in fashion and have been misrepresented due to racial stereotypes. I am breaking down those stereotypes and reclaiming what Indigenous design and tech [look] like to the world."