Since 1990, our country has celebrated Native American Heritage Month every November to honor and pay tribute to the proud ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. In South Dakota, we are proud of the culture and contributions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. So, as we prepare for Thanksgiving and the rest of the upcoming holiday season, let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on the contributions Native Americans have made to our state and nation.
The rich traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people are woven into the fabric of South Dakota’s history, and they are a significant part of what makes South Dakota such a unique and special place. They are so woven that our state name of Dakota is a Native word for “friendly” or “allies.”
This month we also have the honor of celebrating our country’s veterans, many of whom are Native Americans, who bravely risked and sacrificed their own lives in defense of freedom. Native Americans have proudly served in our nation’s military since the time of the Revolutionary War. And, during both world wars, Native American soldiers, known as code talkers, were integral in helping to transmit secret tactical messages in support of critical military operations by using codes built upon their native tribal languages. Americans and our allies will be forever grateful to our code talkers.
Native American culture can be found in almost every corner of our state. I recently had the pleasure of stopping by the beautiful and breathtaking Crazy Horse Memorial. This monument serves as an incredible tribute to Native Americans across our nation, and it’s a privilege to showcase it here in South Dakota.
I know I’m not alone in considering myself extremely grateful to live in a state that honors its Native American history and traditions. Whether it’s language, food, or events, the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people have left and are continuing to leave an important mark on our state and nation.