Native American Heritage Month
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Politics and Activism

Native American Heritage Month

Past, present and future of the original Americans.

Native American Heritage Month
Colt Idol

I hope everyone enjoyed their extremely discounted Halloween candy and watched the results of the presidential election come in as a way to celebrate the start of the holiday season.

Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? Well it is! Was November chosen because it has something to do with how the Natives have been treated since the "first Thanksgiving"? Probably!

Millions of Native Americans and First Nation Peoples, myself included, get to celebrate their history so I'm going to pass along my wisdom and get you PUMPED for Native American Heritage.

Fun Facts to Impress Your Family With at Thanksgiving Dinner:

-Going way, way, WAY back, Native Americans crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia into Alaska some 13,000 years ago. This period of time is called the "Clovis " culture (pointy spears made their debut)

-Depending on where/who you are, we seem to have taken on different names:

-Native American - The most common term.
-American Indian - The government-issued "politically correct" term.
-First Nation - Ditto to American Indian but if you live outside of the USA.
-Indians - Don't use this one. *cough* Cleveland
-Redskin - This word is actually illegal in California and is referring to a specific tribe, the Beothuks, who painted their bodies and faces with red ochre.
-Injun - DEFINITELY don't use this one. Also you're probably 200 years old.

-The Natives first came in contact with Europeans around the year 1000 A.D. when the famous Viking explorer Leif Ericsson sailed from Greenland to Canada. Sorry Christopher Columbus.

-Speaking of Christopher Columbus, cities in the US are starting to rename Columbus Day, celebrated in early October, to Indigenous Peoples Day. Seattle, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Portland, Andarko, Oklahoma, St. Paul, and Olympia are just some of the cities that have made the official switch. But feel free to celebrate it wherever you live! Columbus was a little too genocide-y for my family.

-By the early sixteenth century the Natives of the Northeast had been in contact with explorers from many European countries. They had met explorers and settlers from England, Spain, France, and Portugal who were interested in the regions vast natural resources including lumber, fish, and furs (and somehow we kept being depicted as "savages" *cue Colors of the Wind*).

-The federal government today recognizes 562 Indian tribes as sovereign nations within the United States. Tribal members are citizens of the United States and subject to federal laws, but as sovereign nations, tribes have retained some rights to govern their own people. The limits of these rights are constantly being re-evaluated by federal courts.

-In 1817, the Cherokee became the first Native Americans recognized as U.S. citizens.

-South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona have the highest concentrations of Native populations in the USA.

-We have a Smithsonian museum! If you're ever visiting Washington DC, please visit the National Museum of the American Indian, it opened in 2004 and was designed by main architect Douglas Cardinal of the Blackfoot Nation (REPRESENT).

-Jim Thorpe, of the Sac and Fox Nations, was the first Native American to win gold at the Olympics during the 1912 games. They also tried to take away his medals but they gave them back like 50 years later so I try my best to ignore it.

-Edith Wilson, former First Lady of the United States, was a direct descendent of Pocahontas! I know literally everyone says that, but no really she was.

-Side fact, Pocahontas isn't Pocahontas' real name.

I know. Shocking. But it's not anyone's fault for not knowing, in the Powhatan Nation of Virginia Natives were given multiple names throughout their lives. Matoaka was her birth name but was kept secret from English settlers out of superstition and was called Pocahontas.

-And we've had a Native Vice President! Charles Curtis of the Kaw Nation was Herbert Hoover's VP from 1929-1933.

-Native American tribes actually have the highest concentration of poverty, lack of access to internet and the lowest education rates in the US. Higher than any other minority.

Here in the present, it's important to remember that Native American culture is more than just a story in your history books and is still very much alive and flourishing.

Native American rights are still being threatened. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the refusal to halt construction despite causing environmental fears for the indigenous culture of the region, sets back centuries-old treaties with the US government. DAPL, an underground oil pipeline spanning 1200 miles, was originally commissioned to be laid near Bismarck, North Dakota. However, fear from the locals that this pipeline would spill (there have 200 pipeline spills in the region since the Keystone Pipeline was announced in 2010) it was moved far away from the people of Bismarck and would now be laid under land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their water supply.

I wish I was kidding.

The main issue is that oil bigwigs have found a loophole. Companies are allowed to build half acres of pipeline without conducting an environmental impact analysis, basically a nature audit to see what the pipeline would do to the surrounding area, because a half acre is so small. But supporters of the DAPL are trying to construct 2400 half-acre pipelines as a way to avoid an impact analysis entirely.

Seriously. I'm not kidding.

On top of that it crosses through ancient burial ground (and we all know what happens when you build stuff on our cemeteries) and the water supply the oil could spill into is the biggest and main water supply for the entire tribe. Over 200 tribes and thousands of protestors are coming to show support for the tribe and to bring awareness for Native American rights.

"It's your generation's job to end fracking."
-My dad. All the time.

No matter how you feel about the outcome of the election, the Obama Administration has until January to wrap up any lawsuits with Native American tribes that date back to Reagan and Donald Trump is in favor of bringing oil energy resources back to the US.

So this Thanksgiving, celebrate how happy you are to be an American, I know I will be, but also take a moment to remember the OG Americans and how this land is just as much theirs as it is yours.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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