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Join the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission in commemorating American Indian Heritage Month

Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission logoNovember has been proclaimed American Indian Heritage Month in Kentucky by Gov. Steve Beshear, with several events planned across the Commonwealth. Click here for an op-ed commentary by Chair Helen Danser, distributed and reprinted in newspapers across Kentucky.

2014 marked the 10th anniversary of the annual designation. Click here for a high-resolution file of the commemorative poster. [PDF - 607KB]
American Indian Heritage Month poster iconThe Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission kicked off the month with a meeting Nov. 3 at Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort. The commission was established under the auspices of the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office (KHC), to recognize and promote Native American contributions and influence in Kentucky history and culture. The body is made up of 17 members, eight of whom are required to be of Native American heritage, and includes representatives from institutions of higher learning, archaeology, Native American arts and the public.

According to Helen Danser of Tyner, commission chair, many misperceptions and stereotypes exist about Native American Indian cultures.

“We hope the work we do is helping to clarify some of these, and continuing to add to our understanding of Native American contributions to our society,” she said. “For example, one common misperception is that all native people shared a similar way of life, when in reality, customs and language could differ greatly among tribes – just as they did, for example, in European cultures. Hundreds of years ago, just as today, there is a great deal of cultural diversity among American Indian tribes in terms of music, art, religious practice and traditions.”
The most prominent event will be a reception and exhibit featuring award-winning Cherokee artist Donald Vann, from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at First Southern Arts Center in Stanford, free and open to the public. Vann will discuss his work and heritage, and his paintings will be exhibited at the gallery through the weekend, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entertainment for the reception will be provided by Navajo flutist Fred Nez-Keams.

Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission meeting Nov. 3, 2014Vann is largely known for his portrayal of the Trail of Tears, and has been proclaimed “one of the best-known Indian artists of the 20th century” by the Cherokee National Historical Society. He has also been recognized as “Artist of the 20th Century” and “National Treasure” by the Cherokee Nation.

Other activities will include a public display focusing on Kentucky Native American history at the State Capitol, and presentations throughout the month by Tressa Brown, KHC commission coordinator. These include information sharing at the 2014 East and Midwest Multi-Regional Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Training, Tuesday through Thursday at the Brown Hotel in Louisville; three presentations at Burgin Elementary School, Nov. 10; a Native American Heritage Observance Presentation on Pow Wows to the Corps of Engineers in Louisville, Nov. 12; and a Native American Heritage Observance Presentation on Myths and Stereotypes for a school group, Nov. 25 at the Patton Museum in Fort Knox.

Kentucky Native American Heritage Month was established by the Legislature in 1998 to recognize the contributions of Native Americans to Kentucky history and culture. According to the gubernatorial proclamation, “American Indians have lived in Kentucky for more than 12,000 years and have made significant contributions to Kentucky’s rich cultural heritage… We recognize the past, present, and future contributions that American Indians have made and continue to make to enhance the quality of life of all Kentuckians.”

Photo, from left, Commission Member Anne Wood, Chair Helen Danser, KHC Commission Coordinator Tressa Brown

About the KNAHC

A woman dressed in Native American garb demonstrates basket weaving.The Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission was established in 1996 (KRS 171.820-171.822) to recognize and promote Native American contributions and influence in Kentucky’s history and culture.  The commission has 17 members (the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary or designee, plus 16 appointed by the Governor), eight of whom are of Native American heritage.  The Commission also includes representatives from institutions of higher learning, archaeology, Native American arts and the public.

Our Vision

All Kentuckians will recognize, appreciate and understand the significant contributions Native Americans have made to Kentucky’s rich cultural heritage.  Through education and increased awareness, the people of Kentucky will understand the histories, cultures and matters of concern to Native American peoples.

Our Goals

  • To promote increased awareness of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission within state agencies
  • To promote the role and importance of Native American peoples to the history and development of the Commonwealth through teacher education, media relations, and public education
  • To develop and promote an accurate depiction of Native Americans through media relations, research, and educational programs
    To develop programs, events, and materials for and about Native American peoples
  • To serve as a clearinghouse for information for and about Native Americans in Kentucky
  • To develop and maintain partnerships between Native American peoples, agencies, and organizations in promoting the goals and objectives of the Commission
  • To promote conservation and preservation of the cultures, ideals, and artifacts of Native Americans in Kentucky
  • To promote existing and needed legislation to protect and promote the heritage of Native American peoples

Educational Initiatives

  • Native American Heritage Month Poster
  • Teaching About American Indians: Stereotypes and Contributions, a Resource Packet for Kentucky Teachers [PDF - 2,798KB]
  • A Native Presence: A Companion Guide For Middle and Elementary School Teachers (Grades 4-8), for use with KET program, A Native Presence (co-funded by the Kentucky Archaeological Survey)
  • Native Americans: Who Are They Today? A Discipline-Based Unit in Social Studies for Grades 4-5 (co-funded by the Kentucky Department of Education)
  • Initiated planning for a Kentucky Native American Arts and Cultural Center

Sponsored Activities

  • Living Archaeology Weekend at Red River Gorge, Gladie Cultural Environmental Center
Commission Members

Preservation or Archaeological Community
Dwight R. Cropper, South Portsmouth
David Pollack, Ph.D., Lexington

Arts Community
Sarah Elizabeth Burkey, Bradfordsville

Citizens at Large
Helen Danser -
 Chair, Tyner
Michael C. Presnell - Vice Chair, Louisville
Angela M. Arnett, Waynesburg
Ricardo Nazario Y Colon, Clearfield
Michael Dunn, Louisville
David Lee Fallis, Frankfort
Cynthia L. Isbell, Louisville
Susan Mullins, Berea
Christopher A. Robinson, Richmond
William St. Pierre, Villa Hills

Institutions of Higher Learning
John P. Bowes, Ph.D., Lexington
A. Gwynn Henderson, Ph.D., Lexington
Rep. Reginald Meeks, Louisville

Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
Bob Stewart

Useful Links

Northern Kentucky University Native American Studies Program External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

Kentucky Housing Corporation External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

Community Ventures Corporation External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site / Kentucky State Parks External Link - You are now leaving the .gov domain.
Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
94 Green Street, P.O. Box 155
Wickliffe, Ky. 42087
Students, teachers and Scouts can explore the excavated mounds, exhibits of Mississippian culture and displays of artifacts dating back to 1100 A.D. Activity stations in the museum provide hands-on experiences. A Teacher's Packet with pre-visit activities, background information and scavenger hunt activity sheets can be downloaded
A picnic shelter and chunkey game equipment (an interactive Mississippian Native American game) are available for teachers to use while at the park with their paid admission fees. Tours are teacher-led, self-guided and special guide sheets provided to group leaders.
Park is open March to November for school and scout groups and teachers should call to schedule a time for their classes to visit. Fees range from $2 to $5 per person (Teachers are free admission with their students). November is Native American Heritage Month and in recognition all school and scout group rates are $1 per person (self-guided tours only) for the month of November. Call 270-335-3681 for information or e-mail


The next meeting of the KY Native 
American Heritage Commission will be 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Lexington Public Library, 140 E. Main

September 2014
Gov. Steve Beshear proclaims September as Kentucky Archaeology Month

Archaeology Month proclamation [PDF - 64KB]

Archaeology Month poster [PDF - 624KB]

Living Archaeology Weekend image
2014 Living Archaeology Weekend, Sept. 19-20, Red River Gorge [PDF - 556KB]


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Last Updated 3/6/2015