How much do you know about Native Americans in the U.S. today? Did you know there are more than 500 federally recognized tribes, and the culture is as prevalent today as it was centuries ago?
“I wish that people knew that Native American culture is alive and well. We speak our language and live our traditions today, even those of us living in cities away from our homelands,” said Fawn Sanchez, an Army Veteran and AWS Enterprise Support Training Manager.
Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity for education, and to recognize the culture, experiences, and history of Native peoples.
“To me, being Native American means having an interconnected relationship to my homeland and to my culture and traditions. This guides who I am and how I live my life,” said Sanchez, who is Shoshone Bannock from Fort Hall Idaho and Carizzo-Comecrudo from Monterrey, Mexico. “Native culture and traditions are passed down through elders, through storytelling and ceremony. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a Native community and learn about my culture, and am dedicated to sharing that with others.”
Sharing personal experiences and traditions with others is essential for learning, according to Sharon Chiarella, Vice President of Community Shopping at Amazon. “Native Americans are a vital piece of the history of the U.S., yet many Americans know very little about the backgrounds and customs.”
Chiarella is the executive sponsor of an employee group called Indigenous@. Sanchez is the organization’s Vice President.
The Amazon employee affinity group is dedicated to making an internal and external impact that celebrates and elevates diverse Indigenous cultures. Formed three years ago, the group’s goal is to make Amazon the premier employer for Indigenous people.
“Support from a leader like Amazon has outsized impact,” said Michael Running Wolf, Lakota and Cheyenne, Co-Founder of Indigenous@, and a Software Development Engineer with Amazon’s Business Data Technologies Team.
With three established chapters and more than 800 members, Indigenous@ recently participated in the company’s first-ever Represent the Future career enrichment summit designed to uplift individuals in Black, Latinx, and Native American communities.
“I am so proud of what our group has accomplished,” said Carla Corl, Fernandeño Tatavíam Band of Mission Indians, Amazon Software Development Engineer and Co-Founder of Indigenous@. “We have made our voices heard, and seen our heritage celebrated in impactful ways. It has made me even more proud of my heritage and the resiliency and perseverance it engenders.”
Supporting Native communities
The Indigenous@ group works with a variety of nonprofit organizations to support the growth and development of Indigenous Peoples and communities across the nation. This support ranges from donations to tribal communities impacted by current events to offering coding camps for Native Americans. The Indigenous@ group recommends supporting these nonprofit organizations:
To mark Native American Heritage Month, the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled this data:
6.9 million—The nation's American Indian and Alaska Native population alone or in combination with other race groups is 6.9 million.
324—The number of distinct federally recognized American Indian reservations in 2019, including federal reservations and off-reservation trust land.
574—The number of federally-recognized tribes in 2020.
142,972—The number of single-race American Indian and Alaska Native veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2019.
Honoring Indigenous cultures
To learn more about the histories and contributions of Indigenous communities, browse through our curated book list on Native peoples, and watch the films included in the gallery below.