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November celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month

Starting in 1976 as Native American Awareness Week, the period was expanded by Congress and approved by President George H. W. Bush in August 1990 by designating the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. In his proclamation for 1996, President William J. Clinton noted, "Throughout our history, American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have been an integral part of the American character. Against all odds, America's first peoples have endured, and they remain a vital cultural, political, social, and moral presence." The term "American Indian" incorporates hundreds of different tribes and approximately 250 languages. 

Read more on our Heritage Month Guide.

1. All Saints Day: Christian

This Christian holiday celebrates the memory of the Christian saints and martyrs, and also of family members who have died. In countries such as Spain, Mexico and Poland, it is a public holiday. People visit family grave on this day; Russians often take vodka and snacks with them, making the occasion joyful as well as solemn.

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos): Mexico

Originating in Mexico among native peoples, today Mexicans and Mexican Americans begin celebrating this holiday on the evening of October 31 and continue through November 2. The holiday has its roots in two traditions: the Christian observance of All Saints and All Souls Day, and two Aztec festivals in which the souls of the dead were welcomed back to visit those who remembered them. Many families, churches and communities create ofrendas, or altars, with special flowers, foods, and favorite possessions to honor the memory of deceased loved ones and to welcome their visiting souls. The holiday is celebrated with family and community gatherings, music, and feasting, and the festivity of its observance acknowledges death as an integral part of life.

3. Ashura: Islamic

Ashura, which in Arabic means "the tenth day," has several important meanings for Muslims. When the Prophet Muhammad settled in Medina, he encountered Jewish tribes who fasted on the tenth (ashr) of the month to commemorate the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Muhammad, feeling a kinship to Moses, instituted a similar fast among Muslims. When Muslims were later commanded to fast during Ramadan, the fast of Ashura became voluntary.

Ashura also commemorates the death of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Islam's prophet, Muhammad, and the third Imam of the Shi'a Muslims, at the Battle of Karbala on the tenth day of Muharram in the year A.D. 680 (A.H. 61). Hussein's martyrdom at Karbala deepened the schism between the Shi'a Muslims and the Sunni Muslims, which had arisen from a dispute over who was the rightful successor to Muhammad.

For Shi'a Muslims, Ashura is perhaps the defining holiday of their faith and the holiest day of the year. It is a day of commemoration and pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam Hussein in the Mashad al-Hussein shrine in Karbala, Iraq, considered by Shi'a Muslims to be one of the holiest places in the world. The commemoration of Ashura was banned for many years under Saddam Hussein's regime. The commemoration of Ashura also became a major symbol for Iran, a country that is almost entirely Shi'a, during the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

6. Guru Nanak Ji's Birthday: Sikh

This holiday celebrates the birth of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikhism. Sikhism, which comes from the Hindi word sikh, meaning "disciple," is one of the three religions most widely practiced in India with approximately 16 million followers, mostly concentrated in the state of Punjab in northern India. Sikhism is based on the revelations of its founder, the mystic guru Nanak. It opposes idolatry and emphasizes the unity of one god and all peoples.

9. Allama Iqbal Day: Pakistan

This national holiday commemorates the birth of Allama Iqbal (1877–1938), politician, philosopher, and poet, whose vision of an independent state for the Muslims of British India led to the creation of the nation of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal is recognized as the national poet of Pakistan.

11. Remembrance Day (Armistice Day): Belgium, Canada, France, United Kingdom

Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday commemorates the day in 1918 when an armistice was signed by the Allies and the Germans at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" and fighting stopped on the Western Front in Europe, bringing World War I to an end. This holiday now honors all those from the Commonwealth of Nations and various European countries who died in World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and all other wars. People commemorate this day by wearing poppies, the flower of remembrance, in remembrance of the poppies that bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders in World War I, and by pausing at eleven o'clock for two minutes of silence.

Veterans Day: United States

Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday commemorates the day in 1918 that an armistice was signed by the Allies and the Germans. The holiday was established to honor the millions who had died in the war and to serve as a day of reflection and rededication to world peace. In 1954, the U.S. Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day, and it now honors all who have served in all the nation's military.

12. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695): Mexican

Recognized as the greatest poet of the Spanish colonies in America, Inés de la Cruz was an intellectual prodigy who learned to read at the age of three and became famous as a young woman for her beauty and brilliance. After she entered a convent, she studied theology, literature, history, science, and music, and corresponded with leading poets and scholars in both America and Europe. Her poetry won acclaim on both continents. When her religious superiors questioned the appropriateness of her secular pursuits, she wrote a passionate defense of women's right to learning.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902): United States

An ardent abolitionist, Stanton attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, where she met Lucretia Mott, one of the six women delegates to the convention, who shared Stanton’s commitment to both abolition and women’s rights. In 1848, Stanton and Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, where Stanton presented her Declaration of Sentiments, spearheading the first organized movements for women’s rights and women’s suffrage in the United States. As a leader of the Women's Temperance Movement along with Susan B. Anthony, Stanton secured the first laws in New York State giving women control over their children, property, and wages.

16. Dutch American Heritage Day: United States

On November 14, 1991, President George H. W. Bush signed a proclamation later adopted by Congress establishing November 16 as a day to recognize the contributions made by people of Dutch ancestry to the United States. The Dutch settled in North America in the 1600s, creating in 1625 the colony of New Amsterdam in what is now Manhattan. Approximately 8 million people of Dutch ancestry live in the United States, including many who played an important role in American history, such as both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, both descendants of Claes Martenszen van Rosenvelt, a farmer who settled in New Amsterdam in the 1640s.

International Day for Tolerance: United Nations

In 1996, the U.N. General Assembly established the International Day for Tolerance to promote respect for and appreciation of the world's many religions, languages, cultures, and ethnicities, and to recognize the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others.

18. Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010): American Indian (Cherokee)  

Born in Mankiller Flats near Tahlequah, Oklahoma to a Cherokee father and a Dutch-Irish mother, Wilma Mankiller became an ardent Indian rights activist and the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation. Her great-grandfather had been one of the 16,000 American Indians and African slaves who, under orders from President Andrew Jackson, had walked the Trail of Tears in the 1830s relocating from their former homes in the Southeast to the newly designated "Indian Territory" in present-day Oklahoma. When Mankiller was a child her family was moved to California as part of the Indian relocation program of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In 1985 she moved back to Oklahoma and became the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, serving as the Principal Chief for ten years. She sought a return of the traditional balance of power of the sexes in the then-male-dominated Cherokee Nation and initiated many community development projects, including establishing tribally owned businesses, constructing new schools, job-training centers, and health clinics, improving infrastructure, and building a hydroelectric facility. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993 and in 1998 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

23. Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956): Filipino American

Arriving in the United States at the age of 17, Bulosan worked as a migrant agricultural laborer and eventually became involved in efforts to organize packing-house and cannery workers. After he began to write for a union paper, he discovered writing as his vocation. With the coming of World War II and the involvement of the United States in combat in the Philippines, Bulosan rose to literary prominence, publishing poetry and essays in magazines and volumes of poetry and autobiographies. His most famous work, his memoir America Is in the Heart, speaks eloquently of the economic exploitation and ethnic discrimination suffered by poor Filipinos in his adopted country.

25. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: United Nations

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women and to take action to end this violation of human rights. The date marks the assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, who were political activists for human rights against dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. This day marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence that are commemorated around the world, ending on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

26. Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): African American

Isabella Baumfree, born a slave, fled her slave master in 1826 and became free in 1828 under the New York State Anti-Slavery Act. In 1843 Isabella experienced what she regarded as a command from God to preach. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became a traveling speaker and an eloquent advocate of the abolition of slavery and the granting of civil rights to women. She settled in Washington, D.C. after the Civil War where she worked to help impoverished former slaves. She died on this date.

27. Thanksgiving Day: United States

This legal holiday in all territories of the United States is a time for giving thanks for the harvest and for the blessings the year has brought. In his first presidential proclamation on October 3, 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789 to be "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer." The first nationwide observance occurred in 1863 during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday of November as a day of national thanksgiving. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States. In 1941 Congress made Thanksgiving Day a federal holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday of November.

29. Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975): People with Disabilities, United States

Signed into U.S. law on this date, this act establishes the right of every child with a disability to a free and appropriate public education. It requires states to identify such children and develop individualized education programs for them, and to provide educational services in the least restrictive environment possible. The law also protects the rights of such children and their parents in educational decisions.

30. Advent begins: Christian. (m)  

Advent, which means "coming" or "arrival," marks the beginning of the Western Christian ecclesiastical year. It begins on the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30, and continues through Christmas Eve, encompassing four Sundays. Today, Advent is a solemn yet joyful season of prayer, reflection, and preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in his First Advent, as well as a time to ready oneself in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming.


The entries for this calendar have been adapted from the Diversity Calendar (TM). Used with permission.

For more about the calendar, please visit here.

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