Native American Heritage Month is not only a time to reflect on the history of the United States. It serves to remind us of the core values of diversity, perseverance and cooperation that the Indian Nations have demonstrated in their struggle for self-determination and coexistence, and which are indeed the bedrock of successful American businesses and organizations.
These characteristics are also found in successful entrepreneurs who know the value of diversity in their organizations. They are resilient and learn from the obstacles they face as their companies grow. Top managers also know that innovating means adapting to changing times as much as making the most out of each individual on their team.
From Disney to beading and fringe on the runways, Native American cultures have been romanticized, while their diverse history, determination and humility have often been overlooked. In 1914 Blackfeet Tribe member Red Fox James rode from Montana to DC to ask congress to create American Indian Day. While his request was not satisfied, in 1915 several states began to independently establish their own Native American Day.
However, it was not until 1976 that President Gerald Ford signed a bill into legislation authored by Jerry Elliot or High Eagle from the Cherokee/Osage tribes, establishing the first Native American Awareness Week. Since 1990, legislation signed by President George H.W. Bush expanded the celebration to the whole month of November, which has been ratified by the president on a yearly basis, (click here to read Obama's 2013 proclamation).
Because it is a reminder of how a nation heals its wounds. It shows us the role of humility and forgiveness in surmounting obstacles. Just as the tenants of the Iroquois Confederacy inspired the pillars of our constitution, the values of the native peoples who strove for self-determination are exemplary for any leader. Theirs is a constant endeavor to rebuild trust, recover memory and reinvent their future.
So while you #RockUrMocs this month, remember to stand tall, listen openly and celebrate your neighbors.
Learn more about the Native American population here.