Indigenous Heritage Month
November is Indigenous Heritage Month. Here's some info and potential actions you can take.
This country can be pretty bizarre. On the one hand we celebrate Native American Heritage Month (though this should really be observed on a daily basis as anyone who is not indigenous and living in this country should have a mandate to reflect upon and actively try to atone for and counteract all the cruel and devastating things the colonizers did and still do). On the other hand, in the same month, there is the juxtaposition of the Thanksgiving holiday where we nominally thank the Wampanoag for helping the colonizers through their first winter in what was later known as the US. But what do the current colonizers (pretty much every non-indigenous person living in the US) actually DO to thank the various tribes who were forced to leave their lands so colonizers could occupy it (and continue to benefit from this theft)? The answer as far as I can tell is: Not much.
Here are some starting points, but please feel free to add other ideas in the comments section.
Learn about the Indigenous peoples who used to live on the land you currently occupy. If you live in the Bay Area, it is the Lisjan (Ohlone). Here is a great link to a website that is full of educational information about the Lisjan (Ohlone) and I've included an excerpt from their site below. Here is a link to a helpful site (Native Land Digital) where you can enter your address and it will let you what tribe the original people whose land you occupy belonged to. And if you're wondering what term(s) to use when describing Indigenous people, here's a link to give you some ideas.
"The Lisjan people have lived in the territory of Huchiun since the beginning of time.For thousands of years, hundreds of generations, the Lisjan Ohlone people have lived on the land that is now known as the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area. We did not own the land, we belonged to it. Generation after generation, we have cultivated reciprocal relationships with the plants and animals we share this place with, and developed beautiful and powerful cultural practices that keep us in balance."
There is an effort in the Bay Area to rematriate the land back to the original occupants. Here is a link to the Sogorea Te' Land Trust where you can pay Shuumi (Land Tax) to support them in their goal. It even has a Shuumi Calculator. Look to see if there is anything similar where you live and try to donate what you can.
This image is from the Sogorea Te' Land Trust page.
Read fantastic biographies of Indigenous People such as: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of WW II, or Geronimo: The True Story of America's Ferocious Famous Warrior. Or read fun mysteries by Tony HIllerman.
Watch movies such as Gather and listen to podcasts such as this one about the recent horror of boarding schools forced upon Indigenous children and their families in an attempt to sever them from their families and reprogram them to be as White as possible.
Shop at stores that support Indigenous culture such as Indigenous World.
Continue to educate yourself by reading books such as the Peoples History of The United States or Native American Myths. The Native American Herbalist's Bible.is another great book. Help educate your children via books: Sing Down the Moon, An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People (Re-Visioning History for Young People), or Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story.
And, speaking of Fry Bread, check out the excellent TV show Reservation Dogs (and I'm not just saying that because my friend Tiffany is the music supervisor) (you'll get the fry bread reference when you watch the show and listen to the song).
And to bring things back to the point of this website: wellness and mental health. Learn about mental health disparities of Indigenous Americans at sites like NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness), NIHB (National Indian Health Board), and PWNA (Partnership With Native Americans). Research is FINALLY getting around to studying ADHD amongst Indigenous Americans, so there will (hopefully) much more to come on that topic.
Thank you for reading this, try to be extra supportive to the Indigenous People of your region this month and please be thoughtful as you celebrate Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it). And don't forget that African Americans were also treated cruelly by colonizers; books like this one help to educate readers on the parallel nature of their enslavement and how too they were stripped of rights and dehumanized. Finally, if you're in the field of education where you have an immense impact on the growing minds of the children in your care, Lessons in Liberation: An Abolitionist Toolkit for Educators can help you learn to design or re-design your classroom to better support all underserved groups.