Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

By Jason Archer
December 7, 2018

Native American Plains 20 by robinshall, on Flickr
“Native American Plains 20” (CC BY 2.0) by robinshall

November is Native American Heritage Month or as it is commonly refereed to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.

Portrait of Native American by public.resource.org, on Flickr
Native Americans are known for keeping traditions “Portrait of Native American” (CC BY 2.0) by public.resource.org

Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise 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 conquer these challenges.

Alex Greco, a junior exercise science and health promotions, talked about his heritage.

“We are like everyone else except we were historically the first ones here.”

Archaeological research shows that about 13,000 years ago, north-central Asian people migrated across the Bering Strait, which connects present-day Siberia and Alaska.

These ancestors of today’s American Indians/Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians were indigenous to what is now the United States, having established complex and flourishing societies long before European and other arrivals.

The history of Native American Heritage Month goes back a surprisingly long time.
The first inklings that such a day may come to pass occurred back in 1915 when Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfoot Nation, took it upon himself to ride a horse from state to state seeking approval from 24 separate state governments for a day to honor the “American Indian”.
In December of that year he presented it to the White House, apparently to no positive effect.
Behn Worley, a history education major, talked about being part Cherokee.
“It’s a heritage like no other, the traditions are very empowering and the people are awesome too,” Worley said.
It was George H. W. Bush who officially took the steps to push forward a joint resolution that made November of 1990 the first official Native American Heritage Month.
President Donald Trump talked about Native American heritage month, saying, “During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the legacy of the first people to call this land home.  America’s Native Americans have fortified our country with their traditions and values, making tremendous contributions to every aspect of our national life.  We remain committed to preserving and protecting Native American cultures, languages, and history, while ensuring prosperity and opportunity for all Native Americans.”
America’s first peoples have remained a vital cultural, political, social and moral presence.
Mike Mccuen, a sophomore marketing major who is part Cherokee, said, “Without the Native Americans you can’t have thanksgiving.”

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