Ways to Honor & Celebrate Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month in the US. We gathered a variety of resources to help guide respectful celebration of this month.
Learn the History of the Land
Learn about the history of the land you’re standing on and practice Indigenous land acknowledgment. You can see what land you're occupying by visiting native-land.ca.
If you are in the US or Canada, you may have heard the name Turtle Island, the name for North America or the Earth. In her book of essays, Braiding Sweetgrass, writer Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about the creation of this land as an act of thanksgiving:
“Skywoman bent and spread the mud with her hands across the shell of the turtle. Moved by the extraordinary gifts of the animals, she sang in thanksgiving and then began to dance, her feet caressing the earth. The land grew and grew as she danced her thanks, from the dab of mud on the Turtle’s back until the whole earth was made. Not by Skywoman alone, but from the alchemy of all the animals’ gifts coupled with her deep gratitude. Together they formed what we know today as Turtle Island, our home.”
Study to Find Organizations to Support
Educate yourself on current problems affecting Native peoples and how you can support through mutual aid.
This month Xula, through the Floret Coalition is joining @4kinship to support @chizhforcheii. Chizh For Cheii is a grassroots organization with the goal of providing warmth to elders on Navajo land. Fire is crucial for cooking food and purifying hauled water for the Diné community, many of whom live in remote rural areas with no electricity and limited access to firewood. Donations fund monthly gathering and distributing of firewood, caretaking for the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers and their widow families, COVID-19 mutual aid assistance such as food boxes and water, plus yard clean up and home repairs to winterize for the cold season.
In November 2020 the Floret Coalition organization that we donated to supported @orendatribe's fundraiser for ADABI Healing Shelter serving the Diné people. ADABI Healing Shelter is the primary support provider for domestic violence, sexual assault, family violence, and dating violence victims in the Chinle Agency of the Navajo Nation. ADABI provides resources for advocacy, prevention, and safe home networks. The funds raised will provide PPE, food, supplies, and utilities for the shelter. The women working at ADABI are first responders doing valuable work without funding and proper protection - we ask you to join us in caring for them by raising funds for these shelters to continue their beautiful work.
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Engage and Teach
Teach real Native history to the youth and incorporate works by Native scholars, authors, and healers into instruction.
Ways to engage include:
- Invite Native speakers to school events to talk with children about Native history, including harvest feasts. November is a great time to introduce students to Indigenous peoples. It’s also important that children see Native people as contemporary living people, not just representations in history books and in media.
- Buying books written by Native American authors or featuring Native American characters. An excellent place to start is with any book by author Louise Erdrich.
- Attend a Powwow. Powwows can be anywhere in the state and happen at varying points in the year. There are several guidelines to make sure you follow as part of powwow etiquette, which Indiana University's First Nations Educational and Cultural Center explains here.
Respect Native belief systems as you would your own religion and honor Native veterans. If Native people and organizations ask you to stop engaging in behavior that they find insulting and offensive, listen.
Natives served in the U.S. military in at a higher per capita rate than any other ethnic group in the 20th century, and in the military actions following September 11, 2001, Native men and women veterans served at a higher rate than veterans of all other ethnic groups, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
Support legislation and groups that assist veterans, like those that improve and expand medical services for them and combat homelessness.
Policy Matters—Get Political
Demand that the U.S. Congress vote on Savanna’s Act and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Both pieces of legislation are presently stalled in the U.S. Senate. The latter has already been passed by the House of Representatives. These laws could stem the high rates of sexual violence that Native women face and provide desperately needed funding for Native communities to assist women and girls who are survivors of rape, sex trafficking, and domestic abuse. You can also help by spreading awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Reject Racist Representation
Support the ongoing fight to change race-based mascots. Last month, Minnesota lieutenant governor Peggy Flanagan, who is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, protested the R*dskins name alongside other Native leaders before a game against the Minnesota Vikings. Be vocal in your opposition, like she is. There are still public schools and colleges using race-based mascots. If you’re attending one or there’s one in your area, push them to change it.
Center Native Voices
Follow Natives on social media. Here are just a few Native voices on Twitter that you should follow: @NativeApprops, @mariahgladstone, @YazzieSays, @travisxthompson, @lilnativeboy, @rebeccanagle, @apihtawikosisan, @Tileiya, @simonmoyasmith, @Terrilltf, @nick_w_estes, @agnauraqtweets, and me, @RuthH_Hopkins. You will find many others through these accounts.
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