November is Native American Heritage Month
An Excerpt from Chapa-De News: November 2023
Celebrating Native People
Native American Heritage Month celebrates the rich history, culture, and contributions of American Indians. It is believed that Indigenous communities have lived in North America for around 12,000 years. This special month seeks to highlight the diverse tribes of Native peoples that lived in America, long before explorers, colonists, and settlers arrived and claimed the land as their own. Before Columbus “discovered” America, the area was already home to Indigenous people.
For this reason, Native American Heritage Month also raises awareness of obstacles Indigenous people have faced historically, and still face today. This is an inspiring month that allows for education and enables all Americans to better understand the history of their nation.
In 1976, Jerry C. Elliott authored Congressional legislation to create a Native American Awareness Week. Elliott, who identified as an Osage-Cherokee Native American, was a physicist and one of the first American Indians who worked at NASA. This legislation created the first historic week of observance of its kind for the Native population in the U.S.
Then in 1986, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed November 23rd to November 30th as “American Indian Week.”
Thanks to President George H. W. Bush, American Indian Week transformed into a month-long celebration in 1990. Bush declared November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” In his bill, the President asked “federal, state, and local governments, as well as groups, organizations, and the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.” This led to the national celebrations we see today.
Four Interesting Facts:
Names- More than half of the states in the U.S. have names that come from Native languages, one of the most familiar groups being the Algonquian languages. Three examples of this are Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Medicine- Native Americans are considered to be the first group to have created anesthetics and analgesics to manage pain. They practiced medicinal healing using natural products and ointments made from plants and flowers long before European doctors had knowledge of such possibilities.
Games- The game of Lacrosse was one of America’s first team sports. The Iroquois people played the game as far back as 1100 AD. It was considered to be a gift from the Great Creator for enjoyment and medicine for the soul.
Innovation- Recently, scientists tested 53 copper artifacts found near the Great Lakes. They learned they were made by the so called ‘copper culture’ Indians over 9,500 years ago. They outdate any of the copper artifacts made by people in the Middle East. This makes them the oldest metal working culture anywhere on Earth.
Patrick’s Point State Park returned to the original Yurok name ‘Sue-Meg’. The name Sue-Meg roughly translates to a place that was habitually visited and not a permanent village.
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