Native American Heritage Month

Tlingit line form art of two birds sitting around a fire during a star lit night.

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated each year in the month of November. At Western, it's a time of celebration and recognition — of the rich cultures and traditions of our Native and Indigenous communities —but also one of learning, reflection and dialogue.

During Native American Heritage Month and every month, WWU is committed to seeking out and encouraging Native histories and knowledge; to being purposeful and proactive in our inclusion of Native voices and knowledge; and to discover new ways to inspire and promote a new generation of Native intellectual change agents.

We invite all of our community to take part in a host of opportunities in support of Native and Indigenous learning and advancement, from Native lectures and dialogues to sporting events and film screenings. We hope to see you at these events, but our work won't end there. WWU will continue to invest its time, energy, and resources into supporting our Native populations, both here at Western and in the community over the long-term.

Laural Ballew-Ses yehomia/tsi kuts bat soot, American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations Relations Executive Director and Tribal Liaison, Western Washington University

Amy Salinas Westmoreland, Director of Multicultural Student Services, Western Washington University

Laural Ballew wearing a teal blazer over a yellow blouse and a green beaded necklace. She is smiling.

A conversation with WWU's Tribal Liaison Laural Ballew

Laural Ballew-Ses yehomia/tsi kuts bat soot, WWU’s Tribal Liaison, shares thoughts and insights on what this season means to her as a person of Native descent and how universities and tribes can constructively work toward a rewarding and collaborative future for their communities. 

Read the full conversation

A young dancer dancing while wearing a head dress with black and white feathers and a wooden necklace.

How to Support Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month begins Wednesday.

Many events to celebrate and acknowledge Indigenous peoples all month long.

Situated on the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples, Western Washington University will commemorate Native American Heritage Month in November with a full itinerary of campus events. 

“We celebrate being Native every day,” said Tribal Liaison Laural Ballew, “but the month is a great opportunity for us to share that knowledge and use that platform to remind everyone that we are still here.”  

Artist Appreciation: KáaSháyee Kéet'aakw

We want to thank our graphic designer, KáaSháyee Kéet'aakw (Tlingit Tribe) for creating the graphics for our celebration of Native American Heritage Month. KáaSháyee states that "This design is a modern take on Tlingit formline art, representing ravens in conversation, a nod to the importance of storytelling in Native cultures. The image, at the top of the page, titled "Kindling New Traditions," symbolizes the creation and sharing of stories, a practice as enduring as the stars above them and as vital as the fire that lights the night, reflecting the ongoing narrative of Native peoples." You can learn more about the artist KáaSháyee at

Schedule of 2023 Events

Wednesday, November 1 Staff Picks Library Display

Hacherl Research and Writing Studio, Haggard Hall

Starting November 1, enjoy a display of staff picks featuring Native and Indigenous authors near the Hacherl Research and Writing Studio in the Haggard Hall. 

Thursday, November 2 at 4 p.m. Our Time. Our Homelands; Native American Heritage Month Kick-Off Celebration

Library Reading Room

Join us as we kickoff Native American Heritage Month. This evening will feature an opening song by the Westshore Canoe Family, a film screening of Our Sacred Obligation by Children of the Setting Sun Productions, and a reading by Rena Priest, WWU Alum and Washington State’s 6th Poet Laureate, from her book I Sing the Salmon Home. Also, enjoy a gallery display of works by Native American artists. 

Free WWU Visitor Parking will be available in lot 9G from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. for this event .

Learn more about Rena Priest
Rena Priest's profile faces the light, her dark hair is swept off her face in a bun and she wears a deep black v neck shirt.

Rena Priest is an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She served as Washington State’s 6th Poet Laureate and was named the 2022 Maxine Cushing Gray Distinguished Writing Fellow by the University of Washington Libraries. Priest is also the recipient of an American Book Award, an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Nia Tero, Indigenous Nations Poets, and the Vadon Foundation.

She is the author of three books and editor of two anthologies. Selected works can be found in Poetry Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, Poem-a-Day at, High Country News, YES! Magazine, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Learn more at 

Wednesday, November 8 at Noon MCC Lunch & Learn: Land Acknowledgements & Land Grab Institutions Panel Discussion

MCC Multiuse Room, VU 735

During this lunch and learn, we will screen Children of the Setting Sun Production’s Land Acknowledgement video and engage in discussion with our student panel.

Join us Nov 8 on Zoom

Wednesday, November 8 at 7 p.m. No Man's Land Film Festival

Arntzen Hall 100

Come celebrate female-identifying and nonbinary individuals in the outdoors! Join ASWWU Outdoor Center and co-host Shifting Gears on November 8 for the 4th annual showing of No Man’s Land: Diversify our Outdoors. Fuel up for your winter adventures with this inspiring collection of fem-powered films. The show starts at 7pm in Arntzen Hall 100, and doors open at 6 pm. Come early to check out the booths from our local sponsors including the AIROW project and Shifting Gears! Stay after for a raffle drawing (raffle ticket included in event ticket price).  

Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for faculty, staff, and community members (online or in person before the show at the Carver Gym box office). All proceeds will be donated to Shifting Gears. ALL genders and identities are welcome and encouraged to join in uplifting diversity in outdoor recreation. Bring your friends from far and wide!

Purchase Tickets

Please email the AS for disability accommodations

Monday, November 13, 2:30 p.m. Indigenous Wellness Speaker Series featuring Naiyahnikai Gorman

SL 150 (Sciences Lecture Halls) 

Naiyahnikai Gorman (Dine & Cheyenne) is a community connector, social justice advocate, model, performer, and practitioner of Indigenous wellness and wellbeing. We welcome her to campus for a conversation on wellness, wellbeing, and health promotion in Native communities. Light refreshments will be available.

Wednesday, November 15, 3 - 5 p.m. IndigiQueer Fashion Show

Cofy Columbian Coffee Shop, 1209 Cornwall Avenue, Bellingham

Come join us for WWU NASU’s 2023 Indigiqueer Fashion Show! The event will take place at Cofy Colombian Coffee shop in Downtown Bellingham. Featured designers include; Copper Canoe Woman, 10 Buffalos, Mariah Dodd, and more! This event is in collaboration with WWU NAHM, LGBTQ+ Western, and Native Arts 360.

Friday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. WWU Symphony Orchestra presents “Spirit Chief Names the Animal People”

 PAC Concert Hall

Please join the Western Symphony Orchestra for Chickasaw composer Jarod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s Spirit Chief Names the Animal People, based on a traditional Okanagan story of Coyote’s plotting to beat out the other animals for the best name. First Nations actor Sam Bob will be narrating the story, illustrated with live projections by Heather Dawn Sparks. Also on the evening’s program is Sensemayá by the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, and the monumental Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich.

$15 General Admission; $5 WWU Faculty & Staff; Free for students (ticket required)

For tickets and more information visit the College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Wednesday, November 29 at Noon MCC Lunch & Learn, The History of Native American Boarding Schools

MCC Multiuse Room, VU 735

We welcome Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip), WWU Alum and Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, back to WWU for a conversation on the history and impact of the Residential Boarding School experience for Native American children and their communities.

Join us Nov 29 on Zoom

Learn more about Theresa Sheldon
Theresa stands in front of rippling water, native beaded necklaces draped around her neck and large beaded earrings decorating her ear lobes.

Theresa Sheldon (she/her), citizen of the Tulalip Tribes, began her tenure at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition as the Director of Policy & Advocacy in April 2022. Theresa has 16 years of experience in political advocacy, serving in numerous roles with the Democratic National Committee, EMILY’s List, and Tulalip Tribes, while also presiding as the Native American Director for the Biden-Harris Presidential Inaugural Committee. She served two terms as elected representative for the Tulalip Tribes as a Board Director and served seven years as a policy analyst for Tulalip Tribes. Theresa has been the Co-Chair for Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Native Vote since 2008 and was a founding member and Co-Chairperson for Native Vote, WA. She currently serves as National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Co-Chair for the Safety & Justice Subcommittee and is on the Board of Directors for Native Americans in Philanthropy.

Theresa is an advocate for historical justice, civic engagement, upholding and strengthening tribal sovereignty and the trust responsibility, and protecting sacred places. The federal government should take responsibility for the genocide of Native peoples, fully fund Tribal education/language programs, and recognize that health care is a human right as well as a treaty right. She graduated from WWU with a BA in Law & Diversity in 2005, is a snowboard coach, and enjoys pulling canoe on the Coast Salish Sea with her son.

Thursday, November 30, 5 - 6:30 p.m. WWU Athletics Native American Heritage Night; Pregame Social

Miller Hall Collaborative Space

Join NASU for a pregame community social featuring refreshments and a game of bingo for a chance to win prizes. Then walk over to Carver Gym to enjoy the game and a celebration of Lhaq’temish cultures and traditions.   

Thursday, November 30 at 7 p.m. WWU Women’s Basketball; Native American Heritage Night

Carver Gym

Western versus Biola.

Join us in supporting Westerns Women’s Basketball Team and celebrate Native American Heritage Night during half time. Free admission for all students with WWU ID.

For more information, please visit WWU Athletics.

The History of Native American Heritage Month

Drawing of a night sky with many stars and gray clouds on the right

In 1990 Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed into law a joint resolution designating the month of November as the first National American Indian Heritage Month (also known as Native American Indian Month). “American Indians were the original inhabitants of the lands that now constitute the United States of America,” noted H.J. Res. 577. “Native American Indians have made an essential and unique contribution to our Nation” and "to the world."

Introduced by Hawaii senator Daniel Inouye and congressional delegate Eni Faloemavaega of American Samoa, the joint resolution stated that “the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon Federal, State, and local governments, interested groups and organizations, and the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”

In 2008 the commemorative language was amended to also include the contributions of Alaskan Natives. Every year, by statute and/or presidential proclamation, the month of November is recognized as National Native American Heritage Month.

Information provided by US Senate.

Additional information from the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Thank you to our Sponsors and Collaborators

  • Native American Student Union
  • WWU Tribal Relations Office
  • Office of Student Resilience
  • LGBTQ+ Western
  • WWU Libraries
  • WWU Athletics
  • Center for Education, Equity, and Diversity
  • Office of Multicultural Student Services

A special thank you to our community partners

Cof&, Native Arts 360, Children of the Setting Sun Productions, Westshore Canoe Family