During the month of November, Americans take time to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. We reflect on the diversity and richness of our country’s native people, their history, and culture. This year, let’s also think about how we can honor indigenous people every day by making a few small changes in our own lives.
Find Native American authors to read.
One of the best ways to learn about Native American culture is by reading books written by Native Americans. There are plenty of excellent books out there that will give you insight into what it was like living as a Native American before colonization, and many more that tell stories set in modern times.
You may learn more about how the government tried to oppress or assimilate indigenous people. Through stories, you can experience their world through firsthand accounts. These authors' perspectives will help you understand why they believe certain things and how they came to be that way.
Explore a national park.
National parks are places of history, beauty, and preservation. They're also a great way to learn about the history of native peoples who lived in your area. You can find out which national parks have Native American history by searching for their names on Google or visiting the National Park Service website.
Once you've identified which parks have Native American history, plan a day trip or weekend getaway with friends or family members. If you're traveling with children, consider planning an educational field trip that teaches them how to be respectful visitors at national parks.
Celebrate the arts!
Native Americans have a rich history of art, music, and dance. From the oldest petroglyphs to the modern day powwow dances, Native Americans continue to develop their own artistic traditions that are still thriving today. If you're looking to celebrate Native American Heritage Month by supporting Indigenous artists in your community, look for:
Native American art at galleries or museums
Native American musicians performing at concerts or festivals
Native American dancers performing traditional dances
Get familiar with the hashtag #NoDAPL.
The DAPL is a Dakota Access Pipeline that's been a hot topic for years. It's been met with much controversy and protest, because the route for this pipeline runs through indigenous lands.
You can use #NoDAPL to show your support of Native American rights while also raising awareness about this important issue.
Let’s talk about mascots.
Mascots are offensive because they romanticize or make light of cultures that were forcibly taken from their original owners. They ignore or erase the experiences of Native peoples and play into stereotypes about how Natives should look and act.
Not surprisingly, then, Native American mascots have been criticized for years by many people including educators and human rights activists who see them as a form of cultural appropriation that promotes hate speech against indigenous peoples. The National Congress passed a resolution condemning Indian sports mascots in 2005; several colleges have even banned them from their campuses recently due to this issue's growing prominence on college campuses over recent years. Hey Indianapolis Indians... it's about time for you to take some action.
If you want to learn more about the Native American community, then I highly recommend reading some of their stories. If you’re looking for something to do this month, try going on a trip to one of America’s national parks or visiting an art museum! If you want to get involved with Native American Heritage Month but don’t know where to start, check out posts about #NoDAPL—it might inspire some ideas!
*Image of Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota leader.