November is Native American Heritage Month. Originally declared by President George H. W. Bush on August 3, 1990, the celebration was created in a landmark bill honoring America's tribal people. The month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways of life. It also provides a way for native communities to express their concerns and solutions for building understanding and friendships with the larger community around them.
The celebration has its origins in a turn of the century effort to gain just a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. The first such proclamation for an "American Indian Day" was made on September 28, 1915, by President Calvin Coolidge, naming the second Saturday of May as such a day. The recognition has simply grown from there.
We must recognize the heritage of our country and land dates back much farther than any date when a European stepped foot on this land. And when we recognize that, perhaps we can start dealing with the harder issues.
It's a bit ironic that the month is shared with Thanksgiving, a time when we tell a quaint narrative of how the first Americans and the first European settlers shared a feast to mark getting through the long winter before. A tale that helps us feel better about how the first Americans have been treated throughout our history. We tell the tale of us getting along, and then turn and paint the first Americans as aggressors for the rest of our history. We skip over the numerous broken promises, the numerous broken treaties. And skip over the atrocities we heaped upon them.
We can, we should, and we must do better.
We can start by learning the names and the cultures of the native tribes around us. By learning the truth of our Thanksgiving story. By honoring and remembering those who have always been here. Those on whose land we stand.
If we can do that, we will all be better for it.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Chief Seattle, Duwamish