Department of Family Services – Domestic and Sexual Violence Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-5730 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building, Floor 7, Suite 740
Fairfax, VA 22035
Toni Zollicoffer

November Is Native American Heritage Month

exit website button circle  SAFETY ALERT – If you are in danger, call or text 911.

na-heritage-month-graphic-web.pngDSVS Vision: Peaceful, thriving, powerful communities where all people are safe and free from oppression, fear, and violence.

DFS Equity Impact Statement: “The Department of Family Services (DFS) is committed to addressing institutional racism in its core responsibility to support the safety, health, and wellness of county residents. DFS recognizes systemic oppression and institutional racism have contributed to disparities in opportunities for county residents to succeed. DFS will support equitable outcomes by examining its policies, practices, and procedures to eliminate disparities in service delivery and outcomes for county residents.”


Fairfax County, Virginia, exists on occupied land originally inhabited by the Doeg, Manahoac, and Piscataway nations. DSVS acknowledges and pays its respects to the Indigenous communities which have been historically displaced and to the community members who live here today. Learn more about the history of indigenous people where you live by searching for your own address.


National Native American Heritage Month celebrates the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and acknowledges the important contributions of indigenous people in the United States. The goal of this month is to raise general awareness about the unique challenges this population (made up of 573 separate tribal entities) has faced both historically and currently. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law a resolution designating the month of November as National Native American Heritage Month on the federal calendar.



Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) was the first Native American woman to obtain a medical degree and one of the first Native American doctors. She was committed to improving health outcomes for indigenous people and used her medical expertise to advocate for public health issues, including temperance, sanitation, and tuberculosis reforms. Through her advocacy work, she opened the first non-government funded hospital on a reservation.

"I am a dreamer who dreams, sees visions, and listens always to the still, small voice. I am a trailblazer."

Tillie Black Bear, a.k.a. “Wa Wokiye Win” (Woman Who Helps Everyone) (1947-2014) was an activist, survivor, victim advocate, and grandmother of the movement to end violence against women. A member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, she was one of the original founders of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and founded the White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society, the first women’s shelter on an Indian reservation in the United States.

"Even in thought, women are to be respected. We teach this to our children. We teach it to our grandchildren. We teach it to our kids so that the generations to come will know what is expected of them. Those generations to come will also know how to treat each other as relatives."

Chrystos (1946–Present) is a two-spirit activist, writer, poet, and artist. A member of the Menominee tribe, their work focuses on the intersections of social justice issues including colonialism, classism, and racial and gender justice and their impacts on Indigenous people. A number of their writings were featured in the seminal 1981 women of color feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.

"If rape ended, we would be in a different world."

Current Day Activism

Sarah Deer is a lawyer and author whose work focuses on the rights of sexual and domestic violence victims in the context of United States’ Indian law. A citizen of the Muscogee Nation, she is known primarily for her academic and advocacy contributions to reform conflicting federal and tribal judicial systems to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of crime against tribal members. In 2015, she released The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, a book about her decades-long career.

"At the end of the day, if the system can’t protect its own people, it can become an open season for predators. And I think it’s really what has happened due to the very complicated framework of laws on Indian reservations."

Sharice Davids is a U.S. Representative from Kansas and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation who presided over the House of Representatives floor for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in March 2022 after advocating for better protections for Native survivors. She is also the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress to represent Kansas.

"After three years of working across the aisle to modernize and renew the Violence Against Women Act, of working to protect survivors and ensure their path to justice—it’s an honor to see this bill signed into law today, and with comprehensive measures that empower Tribes, we are finally starting to shine a light on the disproportionate levels of violence against Native women."

Calina Lawrence is a musical artist from the Suquamish Nation who has advocated on behalf of missing and murdered indigenous women and foster care youth. In 2018, she was invited to the Golden Globes Awards as a part of the “Time’s Up” campaign against sexual violence.

"We have to think of what our actions today will do and be for young people. Thinking of them in our decisions keeps us going and it’s a teaching we need to honor."


The impact of sexual and domestic violence on indigenous communities in the U.S. has a long history, reaching back to the first European colonizers coming to North America in the late 15th century. The effects of this violence can be seen throughout American history up to the present day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey shows American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) women experience rape at some of the highest rates of any other racial and ethnic category, with 43.7% of survey participants reporting an experience in their lifetime. Around two-thirds (67%) of sexual assaults against AIAN women are perpetrated by non-Native perpetrators. Additionally, 48% of AIAN women and 41% of AIAN men report experiencing rape, sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

These numbers are even higher among transgender and nonbinary people, with almost two-thirds (65%) of American Indian/Alaskan Native respondents of any gender in the U.S. Transgender Survey reporting experiencing sexual assault and nearly three-quarters (73%) reporting violence by an intimate partner. Native women and girls are also murdered and go missing at the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group, often related to experiences of domestic violence and human trafficking. This significant disparity has led to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls social movement.


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