By Joel Burdeaux

Native American Heritage Month Banner

November is Native American Heritage Month. It is also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

The entire month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native people, and to acknowledge the important contributions they have made in our country.

Native American Heritage Month is also an opportune time to raise awareness about the issues facing native people today, to educate yourself and others about the many tribes represented in the US, and to celebrate the ways in which tribal citizens have conquered challenges in the past.

TOP WAYS TO BUILD AWARENESS ABOUT ISSUES FACING NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY

There are nearly 600 tribes in the United States,[1] counting Alaska and Hawaii, each with its unique culture, history, language, and traditions. While most of us are aware of issues like sports mascots and casinos, these tribal people face many issues that too few know about.

Some issues facing tribes can be regional issues (environmental, local laws, etc…) but here is a list of issues, some that are life and death, facing Native Americans all over the United States.

  • Mass incarceration and police brutality.[2]
  • Many communities are facing poverty and joblessness.[3]
  • The US Government is still stripping Native people of their land.[4]
  • Many communities lack adequate education,[5] medical care,[6] and housing.[7]
  • Ongoing epidemic of suicide among Native youth.[8]

You might be asking, “How can I help raise awareness about these issues?” It’s easier than you might think.

You could research local tribes and volunteer in their marches and events, join or organize letter-writing campaigns, or simply tell others in your community and family about the issues facing your local tribe.

You could also wear t-shirts, display bumper stickers, or order silicone wristbands that raise awareness and expose the issue to everyone who sees you.

EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS

Did you know that phrases like, “bury the hatchet,” and “on the warpath,” come from Native Americans? You might be surprised to discover how many common English words were originally spoken in various Native American languages.

Animals like caribou, moose, possum, chipmunk, bison, coyote, skunk, and raccoon; foods like avocado (and guacamole!), tomato, pecan, squash, banana, and chocolate; and words like punk, canoe, yankee, indigo, and kayak were all brought into English from Native languages.[9]

It’s not difficult to educate yourself and others about Native American issues, history, culture, people, and traditions.

The internet is full of reliable and well-produced information that can help. There are resources for educators, parents, and for those who just want to learn more. Here are a few of our favorite:

  • PBS has a series of documentaries available to stream for free.[10]
  • Poems and essays about or by Native Americans.[11]
  • Films about Native Americans on Netflix.[12]

CELEBRATE NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

In addition to the entertaining educational activities listed above, there are many ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

Seek out and visit Native American owned businesses and restaurants.

Visit a reservation if there is one close by. You are only limited by your imagination.

Our favorite way to celebrate is by cooking or eating Native American foods. Many foods that are “fall” favorites, have their roots in Native American culture. Pumpkin, squash, corn, venison, and many others are all appropriate.

You might be surprised to know that fried green tomatoes, a long-time Southern favorite, is a Native American treat. Here are RapidWristbands.com, we’ll be cooking our way through November using some of the most popular recipes we’ve found online.[13]

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