Native American Heritage Month is a fitting time to discover these stars, who are sharing their culture through social media.
We don't need to remind you that this month brings holidays like Thanksgiving and Black Friday. But November is also Native American Heritage Month, and it's important not to let this annual celebration get overshadowed by all of the turkey and shopping.
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.
Beading artist turned social media star Michelle Chubb has amassed more than 300,000 followers on TikTok (and more than 80,000 on Instagram) with content ranging from an explainer on moccasins to encouraging fellow Indigenous people to reconnect with their culture. And she takes her role as an influencer very seriously: "It's like, I can't mess up what I'm saying because other people are looking to you and take that approach in life," she recently told Teen Vogue. "But then I also think about my younger self, of how much help I needed. I think of it as helping my younger self to heal.”
Shina Novalinga has gone viral with videos of her "throat singing" with her mom -- a musical tradition practiced by the Inuit people of northern Canada -- and, sadly, became a target of online bullying. But rather than taking the low road, Shina has taken a stance, challenging her more than 1 million TikTok followers to start normalizing and respecting all cultures and celebrating their differences. This TikTok, in particular, demonstrates the long overdue recognition and acceptance that Inuit people are finally receiving (including Shina's recent profile in Vogue).
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.
Tune into Tia Wood's TikTok for everything from Indigenous hair tutorials to her educational series called Aunty T's History Lesson, where you'll learn about injustices committed against Indigenous people like the freezing deaths of three men in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in the early 2000s and the abuse in residential schools dating back to the 1800s. Follow her Instagram account to see even more of her beautiful Indigenous regalia plus poetry and ways to support the Centre For Indigenous Environmental Resources.
Indigenous artists to add to your playlist? The symbolism of the grass dance? Why long hair is so important to Indigenous people? Theland Kicknosway shares all of this on TikTok because his parents, who were stripped of their cultural understanding and identity from a young age, could not. Be on the lookout for their sweet cameos in his content.
Larissa Munch frequently posts TikToks of her traditional jingle dresses, which are decorated with metal cones that make their namesake jingling noise when in motion. (While the jingle dress dance choreography and dress style have evolved since originating in the 1920s, that sound -- often described as raindrops on a tin roof -- remains the same.) But it's not just content for content's sake. "On TikTok I know there are a lot of youth on the app so I know they will see my posts," Larissa said in an interview earlier this year. "It’s super important to me that youth learn about their native culture."
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."
Follow Tracie on Instagram.