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Recognizing American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month at the Indian Health Service

by Roselyn Tso, Indian Health Service Director

Each year, November is designated as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This does not mean the celebration is only limited to November, as we celebrate Native people and Native health each day at the Indian Health Service.

This observance is filled with reflections and appreciation of how Native people have influenced our traditions. It is a time when we reflect and honor rich and diverse tribal cultures and traditions and acknowledge the significant contributions of Native people.

I am proud of the important work we do daily at the Indian Health Service. We work with tribes, tribal and urban organizations, state and local governments, health care workers, educators, law enforcement, community leaders and patients to overcome some of the significant health disparities faced by American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Across the Indian health system, employees at IHS federal, tribal and urban Indian sites work daily to serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Many employees provided a variety of services during the COVID-19 pandemic -- a time that proved to be one of the most challenging for our agency. The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated preexisting inequities within our tribal communities. We are grateful for the care that so many heroes who serve our Native people provide. We want to honor them during National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

This month, the Indian Health Service will recognize the contributions and services the Indian health system provides. Every day we will highlight that work and how it impacts our communities. You will hear from tribal and urban Indian organization leaders, patients, community members and employees. 

We will also recognize our veterans. We hold our veterans in high esteem. Native Americans have a long and proud history of military service. They have participated in every major U.S. military encounter since the Revolutionary War. In the post-911 era, Native Americans have served at higher rates per capita than all other races and ethnicities. It is an honor to deliver care to Native veterans in partnership with the Veteran’s Health Administration. To all of those who have served, thank you for your service. On Veterans Day, November 11, we will also honor our veterans who serve across the IHS.

We will share this information in our employee newsletter, in our communication with tribal and urban Indian organization leaders, and on IHS social media.

This month, as we all celebrate the traditions, languages and stories of Native people and ensure their rich histories and contributions can live on with each passing generation, let us also reflect on the contributions and impact of the Indian health system.

Roselyn Tso, Indian Health Service Director

Roselyn Tso, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, is the director of the Indian Health Service. As director, Ms. Tso administers a nationwide health care delivery program that is responsible for providing preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 2.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States.