Silver Chips Online

Back to our roots

SCO suggestions to celebrating Native American heritage

By Rachel Auerbach, Online Managing Editor
November 25, 2011
November is a month of celebration. It holds the joy of Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of the holiday season. While enjoying food and visiting with friends and family, people rarely stop to think about the origins of Thanksgiving. When pilgrims first came to America on the Mayflower, Native Americans helped them cultivate crops, hunt and generally become better equipped to survive in the new land. Throughout history, Native Americans have suffered through harsh times, from enduring the Trail of Tears to facing negative stereotypes. Not only is November Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate this under-appreciated group and all they have gone through, but there is also a special day of dedication. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed legislation making every Friday after Thanksgiving Native American Heritage Day. This holiday is meant to honor Native Americans and the struggles they have gone through. Native American Heritage Day also encourages schools to educate students about Native American history.

Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason came to the Silver Spring Library on Nov. 19 to share stories in celebration of Native American Heritage Month. Courtesy of juniata.edu
Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason came to the Silver Spring Library on Nov. 19 to share stories in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.
Many events have already occurred in honor of Native American Heritage Month and more are set to come. The Silver Spring Library hosted Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason on Nov. 19 to share the tradition of storytelling. The event was geared towards elementary school children, but audiences of all ages participated.

In addition to local celebrations, many government-sponsored events have taken place in Washington D.C. The Library of Congress held a series of special events in honor of Native American Heritage Month that were free and open to the public. Events included viewing of excerpts from the film series "Navajos Film Themselves" on Nov. 16, and a concert of "Carlos Nakai: American Indian Flute Music from Arizone" on Nov. 17. The Library of Congress has also put together an online exhibition called "Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans" which shares the stories of Native American war veterans. On the Library of Congress website, viewers can find audio and video interviews, photographs, and official documents that tell the stories of these little-recognized veterans.

It may not be easy to find a way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, but luckily, your experts here at SCO have found some fun and interesting ways to appreciate the real roots of America.

National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting many special events in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Courtesy of National Geographic
The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting many special events in honor of Native American Heritage Month.
The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting many events in celebration of Native American Heritage Month. The museum teamed up with StoryCorps, an organization devoted to sharing history through oral storytelling. The two organizations are preparing to celebrate the National Day of Listening, a new holiday coined by StoryCorps, and American Indian Heritage Day, both of which are on Nov. 25. The museum is also hosting daily viewings of the documentary "Silent Thunder," which tells the story of Native American Elder Stanford Addison, who, after losing all of his limbs, overcame his difficulties and became a Horse whisperer and community leader.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with PBS, made a five-part documentary series that was recently aired, titled "We Shall Remain." The series highlights how Native American communities changed over four centuries, beginning when the Mayflower arrived and examining Native American life until the Wounded Knee Operation in 1973. The series discusses how Native Americans were and continue to be affected by changes going on in the U.S. Full episodes are available online.

Blazer Celebrations

Blair's Cultural Anthropology class has been learning about Native American history in honor of Native American Heritage Month. The class went on a field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian to view an exhibit about how the introduction of the horse into Native American culture influenced their society. They also discussed current issues that Native Americans face and watched a documentary about Native Americans called "A Hidden America: Children of the Plains." There is a possibility that local Native American guest speaker Gabrielle Tayac will speak to the class in December. According to cultural anthropology teacher David Whitacre, it is important for students to learn about Native American history and current issues. "They need to understand that it's not about the past but it's about now," he said.

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