This post was written by Lynn Weinstein a Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.
The American story has been shaped by indigenous people, but because their stories, histories, and cultures are often told by others, our knowledge of them is incomplete as indigenous peoples traditionally expressed their histories through oral narratives generally shared only among their own people. November is American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, a time to reflect and pay tribute to indigenous Americans for their contributions to the United States. In 2020, there were 7.1 million American Indians and Alaskans, alone or in combination with other racial groups, representing 574 federally recognized tribes with 324 American Indian reservations in existence today.
In examining indigenous businesses, the 2012 Census indicated that there were 272,919 American Indian and Alaska Native-owned firms, up 15.3 percent from 2007. While this figure accounted for 1.0 percent of all U.S. businesses, the Census survey indicated that these businesses represented 2.7 percent of those in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. One in four of these businesses support tourism, with an economic impact estimated at $14 billion. The indigenous population accounts for 1.8 percent of the 18 and older population, and is most populous in California (41,254), and Oklahoma (27,450). Los Angeles County had more American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses (11,081) than any other county, while Alaska was the state where American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses comprised the highest percentage (11%). During this time period, in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Oklahoma, the number of Native American firms increased by over twenty percent.
Native Americans own thriving small businesses in a variety of industries, including art, automotive repair, barbering, beauty, catering, construction, consulting, fashion, jewelry, yoga, and businesses catering to hospitality and tourism. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides assistance to Native American-owned businesses through opportunities in contracting, business development, and small business incubators. Through these initiatives, indigenous people are reshaping and telling their narratives, as these stories are not well told in our current collections.
- Search the Library of Congress Websites Web Archive for collection items featuring Native American content.
- Native American History and Culture: Finding Pictures provides an overview of Prints & Photographs Division visual resources, including photographs, drawings, engravings, lithographs, posters, and architectural drawings, related to North American indigenous communities.
- The Library of Congress’ Connecting Communities Digital Initiative provides grants and other opportunities related to digital projects that amplify stories of communities of color. Consult the Of the People: Widening the Path blog for more information
- Native Narratives: The Representation of Native Americans in Public Broadcasting is an online exhibit exploring how Native American peoples and cultures have been represented in public radio and television programs from the 1950s to the present day.
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