Revitalizing Indigenous Connections: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month 2022

Each November, Native American Heritage Month celebrates the rich histories and diverse cultures of Indigenous people and communities.  

This year’s Native American Heritage Month theme is "Revitalizing Indigenous Connections,” which reflects on how the living bonds of history and culture must be continually honored, maintained and renewed with each generation.  

Learn more about how the Department of the Interior has committed to revitalizing Indigenous connections and celebrate Indigenous cultures. 

Historic Renaming Effort 

View of Lava Mountain and Twin Buttes in the Squaw Ridge Lava Bed Wilderness Study Area.

Interior has a responsibility to ensure lands are accessible and welcoming to everyone. In 2022, the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) voted on nearly 650 replacements names to remove a term from federal use that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women. Nearly 70 Tribal governments participated in nation-to-nation consultations in the renaming effort, and the Derogatory Names Task Force received more than 1,000 public comments.  

The renaming effort included several complexities: evaluation of multiple public or Tribal recommendations for the same feature; features that cross Tribal, federal and state jurisdictions; inconsistent spelling of certain Native language names; and reconciling diverse opinions from various proponents. 

Protecting Ancestral Homelands 

A broad valley rimmed with sandstone cliffs within Indian Creek canyon.

Bears Ears National Monument has a rich cultural heritage and is sacred to many Native American Tribes who rely on these lands for traditional and ceremonial uses. There are also world-class opportunities for scenic driving, photography, rock climbing, hiking, biking, camping, paleontological exploration and wildlife viewing. 

In 2021, President Biden issued Proclamation 10285, which restored the Bears Ears National Monument, and recognized the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in managing the monument by re-constituting the Bears Ears Commission as established by President Obama in 2016, consisting of one elected officer each from the five Tribes. 

Preserving Native Languages 

Two Native American girls stand in a field with mountains in the background.

Native languages go to the heart of a Tribe’s unique cultural identities, traditions, spiritual beliefs and self-governance. Interior’s Living Languages Grant Program provides an opportunity for Tribes to receive funding to document and revitalize languages that are at risk of disappearing because of a declining native-speaker population.  

For more than 150 years, Native languages in the United States. have been subjected to suppression and elimination from a variety of factors such as federal boarding and other types of schools that forced American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children to forgo speaking the language of their peoples.

Transparent and Accountable Policing Practices 

Enforcement officers stand at the Peace Officer Memorial.

Interior is committed to helping strengthen the unique connection that law enforcement officers have with communities. A series of new policies announced this year will help advance safe, transparent, accountable and effective policing practices; build public trust; and strengthen public safety.  

The Department’s Law Enforcement Task Force completed a series of 12 listening sessions and received public comment on ways to strengthen public trust and confidence in the Department’s law enforcement programs, ensure appropriate policy and oversight is implemented, and assure supportive resources are available for officer mental health, wellness and safety. 

Facilitating Respectful Return

Two men standing at a table with Tlingit clan hat during a repatriation ceremony.

The protection of sacred sites is integral to the protection of Indigenous culture but for more than a hundred years, the remains of Indigenous people and Tribal artifacts were being withhold from their descendants. 

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act’s (NAGPRA) ensures repatriation of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural significance. The law recognizes that human remains of any ancestry "must at all times be treated with dignity and respect." Following extensive Tribal consultation and review, Interior recently announced proposed revisions to streamline requirements for museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify human remains and cultural items in their collections, and return them to Tribes. 

Water is Life 

Water flows through a canal with cement barriers and green plants on the bank.

The Interior Department’s water-related priorities for Indian Country are as vast and ambitious as we believe are needed to support, preserve and protect Indigenous communities now and in the future.  

Water rights continue to be a priority for Interior. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $2.5 billion to implement the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, which will help deliver long-promised water resources to Tribes, certainty to all their non-Indian neighbors, and a solid foundation for future economic development for entire communities dependent on common water resources.

Building Climate Resilience 

Trees with green leaves surround a river in a wetland.

Indigenous communities face unique and intensifying climate-related challenges that pose an existential threat to Tribal economies, infrastructure, lives and livelihoods. Tribal Climate Resilience projects will support Tribes and Tribal organizations in adaptation planning, climate implementation actions, ocean and coastal management planning, capacity building, relocation, managed retreat and protect-in-place planning for climate risks. This year, Interior announced $20 million in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $25 million from fiscal year 2022 annual appropriations to build climate resilience in Tribal communities. 

Culturally-centered Healthy Nutrition 

Tables and chairs sit in a cafeteria.

Indigenous food is about more than just nutrition. It’s an important part of Native cultures, traditions, history and communities. For the first time, a nutritionist will be hired to support the Bureaus of Indian Education and Indian Affairs (BIA) in developing and implementing culturally appropriate nutrition and training standards that draw from Indigenous knowledge. Special efforts will be made to identify and connect Native venders and producers, as well as community-based systems such as Tribal food sovereignty and health programs. The initiative will utilize Indigenous Knowledge to develop holistic approaches to support Native Food Sovereignty movements incorporating culture, social determinants of health, food, nutrition, land management and regenerative agriculture. 

Connecting Tribal Communities 

A view of a person's hands with turquoise jewelry typing at a keyboard and using a computer mouse.

Interior has partnered with federal agencies to connect Tribal communities with high-speed internet. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Interior’s BIA announced an agreement related to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The Program offers grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities for high-speed internet deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning.  

NTIA has allocated $1 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law toward the Notice of Funding Opportunity announced in June 2021, making the total available for high-speed internet grants now $1.98 billion. 

Additionally, with recent grant funding, Tribes will be able to explore the possibility of developing or extending broadband services in their communities through feasibility studies of those broadband development opportunities. 

Interior will continue its efforts to revitalize Indigenous connections and celebrate our rich and diverse cultures for future generations.