Theme: National Native American Heritage Month
In case you didn’t know, November 2015 is National Native American Heritage Month. It has been a tradition for US Presidents to declare November National Native American Heritage Month since 1993 when Congress gave Presidents the power to do so. However, the President also has the power to completely forego the celebration or change it to a single week or day or a different month entirely (To read this year’s proclamation, click here.).
However, the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 27) is officially Native American Heritage Day and has been since 2009 when Congress passed a Joint Resolution. Conveniently, it’s also Black Friday and a day when most schools are off, meaning that there probably won’t be time for children to learn about it.
Native Americans have been getting the short end of the stick since Europeans washed up on their shores 1000 years ago, so it’s little wonder that not only are they given the day after Thanksgiving (which is fraught with all kinds of problems) as their National Heritage Day but that their Heritage Month is at the whims of the President. So I’d like to share a few links that talk about the month, issues important to Native Americans, and some odds and ends. Apologies for not getting these links out earlier.
To learn more about the month, click here. It’s a comprehensive overview of the month, how it came to be, and the various pieces of legislature that make it happen. No, it’s not super exciting, but it’s important.
A much better link is here, which is the government’s official Native American Heritage Month site. It tells you about the months, tells you about exhibits, teaches you about Native American veterans, gives you teaching resources, and so much more. It’s really fun to tool around on it.
If you would like to learn more about the Native American population as a whole, I recommend clicking here. It is a very detailed list of various statistics, including how many Native Americans live in the US, their population growth, rates of poverty, and amount of federally recognized tribes. It’s a good place to start seeing where the population is lagging behind and being discriminated against.
To learn more about important issues that the Native American community is facing, click here for a short Huffington Post essay. It reminds readers that Native Americans are still having their rights and lands stripped from them, face poverty, are discriminated against by the police, and lack educational opportunities.
One of the issues facing Native Americans is the loss of their native languages. As forced assimilation occurs, younger generations lose the motivation to learn or retain their native languages. To learn more about why learning a native language is important (specifically for Native Americans though there’s a wider discussion too), click here. It comes with some pretty good resources, but if you’d like some simple web sites to learn a native language, click here and here.
One of the best ways to try to learn about a community is to read their literature, whether the work is fictional or not. Literature proves a valuable insight into how people and groups view the world, what they consider important, and how they’re dealing with problems. If you click here, you can get a decent overview on Native American literature starting from when it moved from oral to written in the 18th century. It also has mini bios of prominent writers and their work.
Or you can click here to learn more about the Native American Renaissance, which began in the 1960s and included a surge of Native writers. It has numerous resources about modern writers for you to check out (You can also click here to see a massive, browsable database.).
However, if those resources seem too much for you, I would check out this link. It contains a short list of 20 Native writers you should try. Another option is this link, which is about seven female Native writers. But whatever you choose, I hope you learn something and enjoy yourself. I know I will.
* Featured photo from http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/11/01/native-american-heritage-month-begins-today-celebrate-ictmn-143382