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Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission

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 members appointed by the Governor), eight of whom are required to be 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-2.8MB]
  • 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

  • Annual 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

Susan Mullins, Berea

Citizens at Large

Helen Danser, Tyner, Chair

Michael Dunn, Louisville, Vice Chair

Clark Defler, Fisherville

Venus Evans, Corbin

David Lee Fallis, Frankfort

Cynthia L. Isbell, Louisville

Deanna Jessie, Olive Hill

Rep. Reginald Meeks, Louisville

Tyler Simpson, Stanford

Valerie Thompson, Eubank

Anne Wood, Lexington

Institutions of Higher Learning

A. Gwynn Henderson, Ph.D., Lexington

Christopher A. Robinson, Richmond

Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet

Don Parkinson

Useful Links

Northern Kentucky University Native American Studies Program

Kentucky Housing Corporation

University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health

Community Ventures Corporation

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site / Kentucky State Parks