RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s a story that goes back more than 10,000 years.

What are now artifacts once made and used by North Carolina’s first peoples miraculously preserved within the same earth that provided the substance to create them are on display at the North Carolina Museum of History.

“So November is a big push to bring about that notoriety that we’re still here, notoriety about Indian culture and Indian history,” said Gregory Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

While the last two have been virtual due to COVID-19, each November downtown Raleigh hosts the American Indian Heritage Celebration.

A celebration of the distant past and the not so distant.

Richardson reminds us of how far Native Americans in our state have come since the 1960s.

“So coming along with that we were able to create funding streams for tribes, we were able to create job opportunities for individuals and so from that, we now have more American Indians graduating from college than ever in history, we have more American Indians attending community colleges than ever in history, we have more American Indian businesses now.”

But there’s also a way to go.

The Lumbee in Robeson County are among the highest rates of COVID infections and the least vaccinated in the state.

From the coronavirus to diabetes, outreach is key to making improvements on the health care front.

Richardson said American Indians also need more representation on everything from local boards to the legislature.

“We’re not exactly where we need to be yet because we still find that there are many places in our state where American Indians are not quite there yet,” he said.

There is much more to be added to the story of the people who first climbed our mountains, hunted our sandhills, and fished our shores.

But the voices of those who wrote the earlier story still long to be heard. Richardson added, “Everybody’s talking about diversity but oftentimes that diversity does not include the American Indian population, that’s concerning so we to encourage everyone to think about that a little bit.”