Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month

In November, we honor and celebrate Native American Heritage.  By participating, learning about, and enjoying the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans we can all build community and a sense of belonging.

In raising a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to face and conquer these challenges, we are all called on to embody the Partners core value of Respect and Care for Others.

Evidence shows that Native Americans have been living in what is now North, Central, and South America for 15,000 years.  During the Pre-Columbian era, there were thought to be over 1,000 Native American civilizations in what is now the United States. This included about 500 distinct Native languages.  The United States government now recognizes 574 Indian Nations. Native American governing systems were used as part of the basis for the early United States government.

One of the ways we can honor this overall history and learn more specifics to better truly empathize and see things from the perspective of other people, is to learn and experience their culture and history.

Here are some ways you can celebrate and learn more about Native Americans, their civilizations, and history:

Read: Consider picking up a book by, and about, indigenous people. Listen to voices different than yours to see things from their perspective. Some authors and titles to consider, as recommended by the New York Public Library, include:

For Children:
“A Day with Yayah” by Nicola Campbell, art by Julie Flett
“Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” by Kevin Noble Maillard, art by Juana Martinez-Neal
“Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Cod: A Navajo Code Talker's Story” by Joseph Bruchac, art by Liz Amini-Holmes

For Teens:
“The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline
“Give Me Some Truth: A Novel with Paintings” by Eric Gansworth
“#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women” ed. by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

For Adults:
“There, There” by Tommy Orange
“Moon of the Crusted Snow” by Waubeshig Rice
“Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City” by Tanya Talaga

These titles and many others are available for free from your local public library.

You can also look into The American Indian Library Association (AILA). “AILA is… committed to disseminating information about Indian cultures, languages, values, and information needs to the library community.” according to their website.

Visit: The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC and New York, NY include virtual collections and lessons to connect you with the customs, histories, and heritages of Native Americans in North, Central, and South America.

More locally, in Central Florida you can visit different sites on the Trail of Florida’s Indian Heritage. There are more than 100 members including sites, heritage interpreters, non-profits, and convention and visitors bureaus.

And in Southern California, there are several ways to explore Native American cultures.  Visit the State Parks and Museums Interpreting California Indian Culture and Heritage to learn more about resources state-wide.

Eat: Unfortunately, you might have to search a bit to find a restaurant specializing in authentic Native American cuisine. They’re out there, but mostly in the southwest, northern California, southern Florida, and the northern Midwest.

You’re not out of luck though! You’ll just need to be a bit adventurous. Consider cooking your own Native American meal. Collections like The Mitsitam Café Cookbook and your preferred internet search engine can help with recipes and sourcing ingredients. You might even be able to support a Native American small business.

Watch: As a token of progress towards a future were all who come together are welcome, increasing numbers of authentic voices are being heard on the big and small screens. Here are a few movies and television shows to explore:

  • “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” - The storyline focuses on the cultural extermination of the Sioux Indians in the 1880s by the U.S. Army.
  • “Smoke Signals” - This movie is the brainchild of Sherman Alexie, a prominent Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Native writer.
  • “Windtalkers” - "Windtalkers” is a dramatization based on a real story that took place during World War II.
  • "Reservation Dogs" - streaming on Disney+. It is the first American TV series ever with a writer’s room and directors composed entirely of indigenous people from North America and only the second with an Indigenous showrunner.
  • 'Prey' - The latest installment in the long-running "Predator" sci-fi film franchise is set in the Northern Great Plains of the Comanche Nation in 1719. Filmed in the Stoney Nakoda Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with a largely Indigenous cast, the prequel pits one of the now-iconic alien trophy hunters against Naru (Amber Midthunder, "The Ice Road"), a Comanche woman determined to prove herself as a warrior.

Participate/Attend*: Your local public library may have programs you can attend to learn and experience more about Native American culture. For instance, Orange County (Fla.) Library System has, in November:

  • Teen Art Adventures- Native American Weaving: Create your very own weaving project inspired by Native American designs and weaving styles.
  • DNA for Native American Genealogy Study Group: This four-week study group uses the book DNA for Native American Genealogy by Roberta Estes.
  • Florida Natives - Experience a day in the life of Florida’s first people and learn about their history and culture through engaging hands-on activities.
  • Code Talkers - Learn to make and break codes while exploring the fascinating history of the Navajo Code Talkers from World War II.

The Orange County (Calif.) Public Library offers “Discover & Go” vouchers to attend programs at select museums and other facilities. In November, you can visit the Pretend City Children’s Museum for their celebration of National American Indian & Alaskan Native Heritage Month with activities and crafts.

Also available are Native American gatherings known as pow wows:

*Please be sure to confirm your event information.

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