Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
Indian Country Today
Throughout Native American Heritage Month, events and dedications celebrating the country’s Indigenous peoples have unfolded across the nation. As it rounds into its final week and looking forward to Native American Heritage Day on Nov. 27, Indian Country Today takes a look at some of the occurrences of the past few weeks.
Although the overwhelming majority of events taking place are in celebration of Native culture and resiliency, the month started off with presidential proclamations from President Donald J. Trump that could be viewed as at odds with one another.
Trump, as he did in 2019, signed a proclamation for Native American Heritage Month noting the contributions tribes and tribal citizens have made over the years as well as listing legislation his administration has passed on behalf of Indian Country.
Conversely, for the first time he also declared the month of November National American History Founders Month.
Part of the proclamation reads, “A fringe element of radical politicians, media voices, corporate executives and other activists seek to use their immense power to obscure the ideals of our country, rewrite our Nation’s proud history and desecrate the memory of our founders.”
(Related: Dueling proclamations from Donald Trump)
As the month has rolled on, there has been no shortage of celebrations of Indigenous culture.
On Veterans Day, the National Museum of the American Indian unveiled the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., after a year of construction. The reveal took place during a virtual ceremony due to COVID-19.
(Related: Native veterans memorial unveiled)
In a previous interview with Indian Country Today, museum director Kevin Gover said the memorial is a fitting tribute to Native veterans.
“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans,” Gover said. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”
The ceremonial video showcasing the memorial is on the museum’s YouTube page.
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In the lead up to Thanksgiving, the museum also curated a list of recipes from seven Native chefs for Native-inspired dishes to enjoy for the holiday. The list includes: braised buffalo, savory pumpkin, turkey green chili tamale pie and more.
Across social media, tributes to Native American Heritage Month have come across all sites. Perhaps some of the more viral content comes from the growing Native community on TikTok, where a number of Native users have shared viral content over the month. Check them out here and here.
Yet, it doesn’t stop there. Major networks have also joined in the celebration of Native American Heritage Month. Nickelodeon’s classic cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants, translated five scenes from various episodes into five different Native languages. The languages were Dakota, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa, Cherokee and Navajo.
Similarly, the Disney Channel launched a hashtag series called #UseYourVoice that has so far featured two Native youth. One video on YouTube highlights a Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate youth who makes videos speaking Dakota.
In the video, Akisa, who only gives his first name, says he makes the videos to help preserve the tribe’s language.
“It’s vital for young people like me to learn their language because without us, it can’t survive,” he says in the video.
The other video on the Disney Channel official Instagram account features Noli Ortega, a Native youth who doesn’t give his tribal affiliation. In the minute long clip he briefly discussed bird songs and their significance to California tribes.
He learns the songs from his father and says he enjoys learning new words in his language.
“It makes me more brave and more confident,” Ortega says.
Of course, there is also the Native American Heritage Month staple of #RockYourMocs week. The different styles of tribal moccasins were shared across all the sites already mentioned.
In the world of fashion, Nike debuted their N7 winter collection that gives a nod to NBA star Kyrie Irving’s Native roots. He is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and was given the name “Little Mountain” in a traditional ceremony a few years ago.
The collection is inspired by a star quilt and beaded medallion Irving was given at the time.
“Reconnecting to his Indigenous roots has been a jump toward self-empowerment and healing for Kyrie, who is now committed to giving back to Standing Rock and Indigenous communities worldwide through community advocacy, activism, and collaboration with the N7 Fund,” the website states.
Vision Maker Media, a Native media company that helps Native filmmakers share their stories through film, launched a movie festival, “Tribal Sovereignty and Home” on Nov. 16 that runs through the end of the month. Videos can be streamed for free on their website.
Additionally, the long awaited debut of Marvel Comics Indigenous Voices #1 was released.
It is the first in an anthology series that will visit many of Marvel’s Native superheroes. In an August interview with the Associated Press, artist Jeffrey Veregge, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, said the series is correcting representation problems that started long ago.
"I get to tell kids: 'I grew up on this reservation, too. You can do this, too,'" Veregge said. "I know who I'm representing. ... I carry them wherever I go."
Certainly, there have been other celebrations across the country that have not been included in this article. As Native American Heritage Month winds down, tag Indian Country Today on social media to share how you are celebrating.
Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A'aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - email@example.com
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