Native American Heritage Month
By: Sydney Brown and Amber Wilson
November is Native American Heritage Month. The month is also known as National American Indian Heritage Month and Native Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month is dedicated to celebrating the diverse culture, traditions, and histories of Native people by highlighting their contributions, educating the public about tribes, and raising awareness of the challenges Native people face.
The recognition of Native Americans has been a long time coming. In 1914 a Blackfoot Indian named Red Fox James (or Red Fox Skiuhushu) went to many states advocating for a day to honor Native Americans. In December of 1915, he went to the White House with the support from 24 states; however, there was no record of a national day being established. In May of 1916, New York governor Charles Seymour Whitman declared the first recorded ‘American Indian Day’, and several other states established celebrations on September 22nd, 1916.
Several states had designated Columbus Day as “Native American Day” but the day was still not recognized as a national legal holiday. In 1986 Congress authorized the “American Indian Week” and President Bush designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. Since then, presidential proclamations have been issued to celebrate the heritage and culture of Native Americans.
Historically the federal government has suppressed Native American heritage by taking away their land, forcing them to abandon their language and culture, and much more. Through it all, Natives have clung to their heritage and sought to preserve it. National American Indian Heritage Month is one way that they do so: by allowing Native Americans to celebrate the variety of cultures across tribes.
North Carolina is home to the largest number of Native American tribes east of the Mississippi River, including the Catawba, Cherokee, Creek, Croatan, Tuscarora, Tutelo, Saponi, Cheraw, Chicora, and Waccamaw tribes. Raleigh hosted the Dix Park Inter-Tribal Pow Wow last Saturday to mark the beginning of Native American Heritage Month. A day long of dancing, music, food, and vendors were apparent at this first powwow sponsored by the city of Raleigh. Inter-tribal powwows have been held across the state rurally, but being in such a highly visible area that is Dix Park, the tribes hope that Saturday’s event will bring awareness to the rich culture here in North Carolina.
A way that non-natives can contribute to celebrations is by acknowledging what native land they live on. Native Land Digital is a website that provides access to a map that shows what tribes live where. Another way is by texting your zip code to (907) 312-5085. Everyone can also educate themselves and listen to what Native Americans have to say about their heritage and history. The Global Oneness Project contains links to videos and webinars where Native Americans discuss the issues that impact them the most.