Native American Heritage Month: A Time to Learn and Act
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Written by Jordan Rueff and EVOLVE Family Services
November is known as Native American/Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month. In 1990, President George Bush declared the month of November as Native American Indian Heritage Month, which is now referred as Native American/Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month. This month is designed to provide a platform for Native American/Indigenous People to share their culture and traditions and for non-native American people to learn about Indigenous Peoples’ history and rights for continued awareness.
At EVOLVE Family Services, we acknowledge the ways that non-natives have impacted the lives of Indigenous Peoples’. In Minnesota, we have the highest disproportionate rate of 15% of American Indian Native youth were in foster care in the U.S. This is why ICWA is vital in keeping the culture intertwined for youth and their future. EVOLVE also helps to get rid of the celebration of Christopher Columbus Day and instead celebrates Peoples’ Indigenous Day.
Though this month takes place in November, it is important to not consolidate Native American/Indigenous heritage to just Thanksgiving and the many “myths” that surround it. Indigenous People and their tribes that they come from have so much more that is important to learn about during November than a holiday that many of them don’t celebrate.
Many Native Americans/Indigenous Peoples’ refer to Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning, with the arrival of settlers to North America. The settler’s arrival brought disease, famine and ultimately genocide to these Peoples’. The day after Thanksgiving is also Native American Heritage Day; which many in the community find in poor taste. Having it fall on “Black Friday,” which is a materialistic day and gluttonous day, this is an antheses of Native American/Indigenous values.
Indigenous people belong to many different cultures. Over 9.7 million people in the United States identify as Native Alaskans or Native Americans. Within those 9.7 million people, there are over 600 tribal nations, of which only 574 are federally recognized. All these nations have different traditions, ways of life and beliefs. In fact, out of these 600 tribal nations there are at least 175 different languages that are spoken by indigenous people. The most spoken languages are Navajo, Yupik, Dakota, Apache, Keres, Cherokee, Ojibwa, Choctaw, Zuni, and Pima according to the U.S Census Bureau.
How you can celebrate this month and properly honor Indigenous People:
- Find out which tribe used to occupy the land you live on.
- Find a tribe near you and learn about their culture and customs.
- Research information about indigenous people’s history and the complicated relationship they have with this country.
- Research current ways to help indigenous tribes or causes they believe in.
- Speak about the diversity of Indigenous populations with your friends and celebrate their similarities and differences.
This Native American/Indigenous Heritage Month, EVOLVE encourages you to go beyond learning about Thanksgiving. We encourage you to branch out, learn about the native people of your community and help rally your community around what is currently happening in the Native American community.