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How to Support Indigenous Employees This Native American Heritage Month

Today is the beginning of Native American Heritage Month, which was established in 1990 after a proclamation by President George H.W. Bush. Strategically scheduled around the same time as Thanksgiving, this heritage month is designed to recognize the contributions of the first true inhabitants of the United States, and tell the stories of these often unsung communities.

Although we've all been familiar with Thanksgiving since we were children, many of us know very little about Native Americans—from their culture to their struggles to their triumphs. Before we take time off from work to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about these underserved communities, while supporting the indigenous employees working at your organization. The following are some ways to make the most of Native American Heritage Month.

1. Make Land Acknowledgments 

Is the building you work in on top of Indigenous land? You can find out by searching the company’s address on maps that list Indigenous lands around the country and the tribes that inhabited them. If you find out your workplace was built on Native American land, spend this month acknowledging it. Learn about the tribe and post information on your social media accounts. Discuss these Indigenous peoples during meetings and take the time to give thanks to them. This will not only educate people on the history of the area, but also make Native American workers at your organization feel appreciated.

2. Prioritize Learning

Native Americans have a rich culture and history, so there are numerous opportunities for your employees to learn this month. Organize education programs taught by local Native American historians who can provide information on the struggles and accomplishments of their communities. Attend events at galleries and museums so workers are exposed to Native American art. Start a book club to read and discuss the works of Indigenous authors. Make this month a way to immerse workers in the rich Native American culture.

3. Support Native American Owned Businesses

Learning about Native American culture is a great thing to do this month, however, it's also important to support these communities in a more tangible way. In order to do this, you can support Native American owned businesses in your area and encourage your employees to do the same. Whether you have a local Indigenous restaurant that can provide food for meetings all month or a shop you can encourage employees to patronize, be sure to promote Native American businesses to demonstrate how much you really care about these communities.

In addition, it's also a good idea to support charities that cater to Native American communities. You can raise funds for these groups, or organize time for your employees to volunteer, so they can get to know the people in these communities and their needs. Giving back in this way not only provides help to underserved people, it's also a good way to educate the community about your employer brand, and make it known that you value DEIB and want to provide career opportunities to them.

4. Make the Workplace Welcoming

If you already have Native Americans on your staff, how much are you doing to support them? Are you aware of their needs? If you don't already have an employee resource group for these workers, Native American Heritage Month is the perfect time to launch one. This will give you a chance to get to know the needs of this talent, while giving them a space where they can bond with each other as they discuss their work experiences and concerns. Also, you can conduct surveys of these employees to find out exactly how they're feeling about working for your organization, and what you can do to improve their experience. 

If you don't have Indigenous peoples on your staff, Native American Heritage Month can be used as a way to open the door to talent from these communities. Work with organizations that have a Native American membership base, and form partnerships with Tribal Colleges and Universities to help with your early career talent hiring. Let people in these communities know you're interested in hiring them, and you're willing to learn more about their career needs and goals.

Native American Heritage Month is a time when the voices of often forgotten underserved communities are amplified. Everyone at your organization can spend the month learning more about Indigenous communities, as well as supporting the Native American workers at your company. Also, you can spend the month increasing your DEIB hiring by taking steps toward attracting talent from Native American backgrounds.

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