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EXIM Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
November 20, 2023 Jane Lemons, Business Development Specialist

Each year during November, the nation observes Native American Heritage Month to commemorate the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the country. The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) joins in celebrating these diverse cultures and communities who continue to thrive and lead us forward.

In 2020, the nation's American Indian and Alaska Native population stood at 9.7 million, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. To honor their legacy, EXIM President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis is presenting a special message from EXIM.

“During Native American Heritage Month, the nation recognizes the important contributions the first Americans made, and continue to make, to the development and success of the United States,” Chair Lewis said. “Here at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, we honor the heritage and traditions of Native Americans, who have made immeasurable contributions to our country’s progress.”

EXIM President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis honors Native American Heritage Month with a special message. You also can view her message here.

Tools for Reaching Customers Worldwide

For Native-owned businesses, exporting builds on historic trade routes and provides an opportunity to reach customers worldwide. It also enables businesses to give back to their local communities by providing jobs and promoting economic development, according to JoAn Begay Notah, Project Director for the Arizona Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Export Center, which is operated by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED).

“With the technology today, worldwide access to the global marketplace is a lot easier than it has been. Although Native Americans have been doing trade for many generations, this also kind of confined them to the reservation communities and having a closed economy. So the redevelopment of teaching about global exporting really expands their outreach outside of their given communities, and they're able to export to other countries,” she said.

The Census Bureau found that in 2021:

  • There were 48,582 employer businesses, meaning those business with more than one employee, owned by American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • Those businesses created jobs for 307,933 employees.
  • They generated an estimated $54.4 billion in receipts.

EXIM’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Division (MWOB) can assist Native-owned businesses with the trade finance tools they need to begin or expand exporting their products worldwide. To help spread the word about EXIM financing to underserved communities, the MWOB team works closely with organizations that have a minority trade focus to create opportunities for U.S. companies that are owned by minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community along with rural and startup businesses.

Commemorating a Resilient History

The modern observance of Native American Heritage Month dates to 1916, when New York became the first state to celebrate American Indian Day. That followed an effort by Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, who rode across the country on horseback garnering approval from 24 states for a day honoring American Indians, which he presented to the White House.

It was more than seven decades later before that vision came to fruition, when President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution in 1990 designating the month of November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994 with variants of the name, including “Native American Heritage Month” and “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.”

This year, in proclaiming November as National Native American Heritage Month, President Biden noted that Native Americans are “essential to the fabric of the United States.” There are currently 574 federally recognized Indian tribes, and 324 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according the Census Bureau.

“During National Native American Heritage Month, we recognize the invaluable contributions of Native peoples that have shaped our country and honor the hundreds of Tribal Nations who continue exercising their inherent sovereignty as vital members of the overlapping system of governments in the United States. We also recommit to supporting Tribal sovereignty; upholding the Federal Government’s solemn trust and treaty responsibilities; and working in partnership with Tribal Nations to advance prosperity, dignity, and safety for all Native peoples,” President Biden said.

To find out how EXIM can help your business compete in the global marketplace, schedule a free consultation with a trade finance specialist and launch your export journey today.

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EXIM’s Blog postings are intended to highlight various facets of exporting, but the postings are not legal advice, and are not intended to summarize all legal requirements associated with exporting.