Native American Heritage Month offers an opportunity to recognize and honor the rich history, culture, and contributions of Indigenous communities. This month is not only a celebration of their heritage but also a reminder of our contributions to modern society.
Art and Craftsmanship
Native American art, from Navajo rugs to Northwest Coast totem poles, is recognized for its intricate designs and vibrant symbolism. These creations have influenced modern American art, fashion, and design. In Northern Nevada, Great Basin Tribes are renowned for their intricate basket weaving.
Medicine and Health
Native Americans have contributed valuable knowledge of herbal medicine and paving the way for topical and oral pain relief such as capsaicin, jimson weed, and ingesting willow bark. Long before settlers, many tribes created baby bottles to aid in feeding infants and developed syringes.
Agriculture and Stewardship
Many staple American crops, such as maize (corn), potatoes, and squash, originated from Native American agriculture. Native Americans grew crops that are sustainable to the local environment and many Southwestern tribes like the Thono O’odham in the Sonoran Desert that have farmed in the desert for thousands of years are inspiring policies and advocating for climate change and food security.
Native Americans have served in the U.S. armed forces at higher rates per capita than any other ethnic group. Their contributions have been instrumental in various conflicts and wars throughout American history.
In 2021, Deb Haaland becomes the first Native American appointed in the United States Cabinet and leads the Department of Interior with manages 500 million acres of public land, that were once seized from indigenous people, and oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Another prominent acknowledgement is Tilly Black Bear who established the first ethnic women’s shelter in the United States and paved the way for Violence Against Women Act earning presidential recognition.
While celebrating Native American Heritage Month, it’s also important to acknowledge the significant challenges faced by Indigenous communities. Issues like poverty, healthcare disparities, inadequate access to education, and the ongoing struggle for land and water rights are all critical concerns. Preservation of languages and cultural practices remains a pressing issue, as many Indigenous languages and traditions are at risk of extinction.
Native American Heritage Month serves as a valuable opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of the complex histories and ongoing issues faced by tribal communities. Become an ally in the fight for equity, justice, and the preservation.