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Native American Heritage Month: A Special Time for Cultural Education

This time of year is special for Mary Ann Robins, Circle Legacy Center president, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and empowering Native Americans.
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This time of year is special for Mary Ann Robins, president of Circle Legacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and empowering Native Americans.

Robbins grew up on the Onondaga Reservation near Syracuse, New York but now lives in Pennsylvania where she spends her time exposing others to tribal culture, reported

Her organization sponsors cultural and education programs every second Friday and collaborates with the 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum as well as the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society on the longhouse that was recently built in a horse pasture.

Teaching people about Native ways is something Robins has been doing for a long time. Being that November is Native American Heritage Month she sees this time of year as an especially important time to do that. She used to live in Massachusetts and would gather bulrushes and weave them into mats for replica wigwams at the Plimouth Plantation living history museum. She told how visitors would light up when they would try making fire with a bow drill and how they would no longer view Native Americans “as cigar store Indians or someone dressed up for Halloween.”

But Robins doesn’t stop teaching there.

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“One of the many things we’re trying to raise awareness of,” Robins told, “is the Christian doctrine of discovery,” which has never been repealed and was used by colonial governments to take lands from Natives on behalf of the church.

Robins also noted the preservation of tribal customs and language, but said it’s difficult to keep Native youth interested.

“We want to keep our tribal customs,” Robins told “We want to keep our beliefs.”

The next educational monthly gathering will be held December 15 at the Community Mennonite Church, 328 W. Orange St. in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It will be a family fun day with Native American music, games and crafts available to make for Christmas.

For more information on upcoming events contact Victoria Valentine at the Circle Legacy Center, 717-823-2079 or or visit