Governor Roy Cooper has declared November as American Indian Heritage Month, an observance that celebrates the history and heritage of our nation’s first inhabitants. North Carolina is home to eight state recognized tribes including the Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, Sappony and Waccamaw-Siouan. The state also has four urban Indian associations including the Cumberland County Association for Indian People, Guilford Native American Association, Metrolina Native American Association and the Triangle Native American Association.
“We are grateful for North Carolina’s American Indians and all of the contributions they’ve made to our state,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “The rich history and traditions of our tribes make our state a more vibrant place for all.”
“As a native of both the Coharie and Lumbee Tribes, this month is particularly dear to me, as we not only celebrate family, culture and traditions but also educate North Carolinians on the rich diversity of our state,” said NC Department of Administration Secretary Pamela Brewington Cashwell. “We’ve lost many tribal members throughout the pandemic, but our roots are strong and so are the American Indian people.”
In April 2021, Secretary Cashwell made history as the first American Indian woman to head a state cabinet department in the state’s history. According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, more than 130,000 American Indians reside in North Carolina, making our state the second largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River and the seventh largest American Indian population in the nation.
This year marks another milestone as the department celebrates the 50th anniversary of the creation of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs . Established by the NC General Assembly, the Commission was formed to focus local, state and federal resources to support and advocate for the state’s American Indian population. For the past half century, the Commission and its staff have aided tribal communities by serving as a hub for information on housing assistance, educational resources, scholarships, healthcare, workforce development and more. The Commission and staff also have worked to promote the culture and traditions of North Carolinian’s American Indians.
The theme for this year’s American Indian Heritage Month is, “Strong Roots in Changing Times,” reflecting the resilience of American Indians throughout the pandemic and the continued preservation of their rich culture and traditions.
To celebrate American Indian Heritage Month, the Commission is again partnering with the NC Museum of History, North Carolina’s American Indian tribes and urban Indian organization to coordinate a weekend of special events. The 26th annual celebration will be virtual and is free and open to the public. This year, students and teachers can view live dancing and music during the celebration’s Education Day on November 19 from 9:30 am – 3:30pm. The main celebration will be held Saturday, November 20 from 11 am – 4pm and will feature live panel discussions and presentations.