Our program kicked off one week ago, but November kicks off Native American Heritage Month. Native American Heritage Month provides a time to acknowledge the truth in our history, recognize the land we are on, and celebrate Indigenous people.
Native American Heritage Month emerged in 1990 when President Geoge Bush signed a congressional resolution designation the month of November to celebrate Native American heritage. Since then, several proclamations have contributed to Native American Heritage Month.
Why is Native American Heritage Month Important?
- Our 2021 program focuses on Joy Harjo’s book An American Sunrise, which explains her experiences as a Native American woman. One of the reasons this book was chosen was to allow readers to better understand the perspective and cultures of Native Americans, who are often overlooked in history books. Two of our guiding questions this November are: Whose histories are told and whose are silenced? Why is it important for us to learn about Native American history and culture?
- This month provides an opportunity to acknowledge who’s land we are on and the displacement of Native Americans as white settlers moved West in United States history. The Big Read Lakeshore land acknowledgment can be found here!
- It is a time to learn something new! There is so much to learn about Native American culture. November provides a time to learn something new or think about something differently. The events so far have already taught me about silence, expressing one’s history through poetry, and what can be gained by learning about other cultures.
Q and A with Nancy Gately
Nancy Gately is a senior English Secondary Education major, a member of the Big Read Team, and a proud member of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Tribe.
Why did you want to join the Big Read team?
As a lover of words, I am always excited to see what the Big Read Lakeshore Book is, but when I found out that “An American Sunrise” was chosen not only was I excited because it meant the Big Read Lakeshore events would be off and running, but it also meant that a wider audience would learn that Native Americans and our varied cultures and traditions are still alive and thriving, as alive, thriving and full of history as the land we stand on.
Why is learning about Native American heritage important?
Now you may be wondering to yourself, though this information is interesting, why? The answer to this question is representation. While our education of Native American culture is getting better there are many times where people believe Native Americans are ancient history and that our culture is not a living and evolving practice. My hope is that you learn more about Native American culture and remember that we are not stuck to the pages of history books, but that some of us may be your friends, neighbors, students, and colleagues.
Where can we learn more about Nancy’s tribe and experience?
Check out the video about Potawatomi history on the Big Read Lakeshore Youtube page. It is a great way to learn more about Native American history and experiences and to learn more about our talented Big Read team members.
Things You Can Do this Month:
- Come to our events! There are a wide variety of events to choose from that range in topics from Native American art, history, documentaries, and much more. These events are offered in person or online.
- Read a book about Native American history and experiences. Consider reading Joy Harjo’s poetry collections or memoirs, Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn, The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, or Frybread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Maillard. These are a few suggestions, but there are countless choices to choose from!
- Do some research! There are unlimited ways to engage with Native American Heritage Month. Try reading an article about Native American history, watch a documentary, visit a museum, and so much more!