Native American Heritage Month

It’s Native American Heritage Month!

I only learned about NAHM last year when I heard a single, two minute piece on Native issues on NPR at the very end of November. I spent a few days afterwards looking for more information, local events, lectures, concerts, anything that was celebrating Native American peoples, cultures, and history. Guess what? I didn’t find very much. And it kind of ticked me off—by which I mean it really ticked me off.

As a response, I wrote a very short post about it right here on this very blog. It is, to this day, the most viewed entry I have ever written—followed very closely behind by my post about the R word and “casual racism.”

For the last year I’ve been hoping that this year I would see and hear and read more about it before the end of the month. And, unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m shocked to find that my last-minute catch of a short mention of Native American Heritage Month last year wasn’t the fluke I had hoped it was. There’s hardly any mention in the national or local media. So far the only thing I’ve seen, heard, or read referring to the nationally recognized and sanctioned celebration of Native American heritage, history, and culture that wasn’t accompanied by the #NativeAmerican hashtag on Twitter has been a mention of the American Indian Heritage Celebration at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. I smiled and frowned at once. It’s on Saturday, and because of that I cannot go. My Saturdays belong to the Center. But still, I’m very excited to learn that there’s a local event (that has apparently been around for 19 years!).

Why is there so little mention, so little awareness, so little attention? Native peoples are, by far, the single most significant and important group in our national history; moreso than any other race, nationality, or religious group because they have been here for every “first contact,” war, expansion, colony, treaty, law, election, development, etc etc etc. Every facet of civilization on the North American continent has taken place or developed under their watch. And how do we, as a population, acknowledge Native people and cultures? We don’t. We ignore Natives every day. Ask yourself when the last time you heard any news on Native issues that weren’t NFL or uranium related in the national conversation?

I thought, surely, after the international media spotlight was focused on the Washington R******* that a conversation would begin. Anxiously and optimistically, I waited for that conversation to begin from the root of the racism discussion with the NFL. And it hasn’t. I must say, America, I’m very disappointed. Disgusted, even.

Go out and find a book written by a Native author. Watch a film by a Native filmmaker. Listen to Native music. Thank a Native veteran. Look, with a critical eye, at our national history. Learn about the nations of the first peoples here in North America. Recognize that the United States Constitution is heavily influenced by the principles and ideas that our “Founding Fathers” learned from the Iroquois Confederacy—another of the many reasons I previously classified Native peoples as the single most significant and important group in US history. Find a local celebration, event, or exhibition near you and attend. Look into Native issues at your local, state, and national level.

CELEBRATE Native Americans!