It’s Native American Heritage Month — Here’s How To Support And Learn

Life Writer
11.01.18 5 Comments

B. Yellowtail

November is Native American Heritage Month. This month gives us an opportunity to connect to the Indigenous communities throughout the United States. There are 326 Indian Reservations with 567 different tribes across the United States. Yes, some reservations hold multiple different nations on them. See, we’re already learning.

As a descendant of Skokomish (Duhlelap Twana) and Yakama (Wishram) Nations out in Washington, with ancestors from Hawai’i, Native American Heritage Month means a lot to me and my family. It gives us a chance to reach out, connect, and, hopefully, heal old wounds. It’s no coincidence that this month falls at the same time as Thanksgiving, given that it was about the Pilgrims and Wampanoag working together before the Puritans showed up and started persecuting and murdering everyone. To me, it’s a great example of what could have been in a world without religious fundamentalism.

It’s this idea of us — Indigenous and migrant — working together that focuses Native American Heritage Month. We have to start healing, and this month is a good place to do just that. Below are seven current touchstones of the Indigenous American experience. The point of this is to expand horizons, bring people together, and amp up empathy for America’s most subjugated citizens. It’s about taking action and learning about the land and people that exemplify America in its earliest form.

Here are books you can read, food you can eat, podcasts you can listen to, movies you can watch, and travel experiences you can have right now to connect to the Indigenous tradition in the United States.

Related: Read about Indigenous issues at Uproxx Indigenous Life!

I. INDIGENOUS AMERICAN READING LIST

Black Elk Speaks, John Neihardt

Black Elk lived on this earth from 1863 until 1950. In the 1930s, he met John Neihardt and they set out to tell the story of the apocalypse acted upon the Lakota and the subsequent reservation life that befell the survivors. Black Elk Speaks also delves into Black Elk’s deep spirituality and his vision of a humanity united as one.

It’s a classic read that’ll give you deep insight into the Lakota, their way of life, history, and spirituality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a painstakingly detailed account about how the United States government executed their “extermination” policy against the Indigenous people of the Americas in the back half of the 19th century. This is a devastating read that is 100 percent essential for every American today. At the very least, it’s a harrowing tale of the lengths the United States government, military, and citizens will go to take what they want no matter the human or environmental consequences.

Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silke’s Ceremony is a masterpiece of narrative fiction. The tome follows Tayo as he returns from World War II to a world not quite his own. Tayo’s journey of rejection, trauma, and embracing his Indigenous identity is emblematic of the journey all Indigenous Americans live with every single day.

If you want to understand what it’s like to be Indian in America, this is where you start.

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley

The future of American cuisine is in its past. Indigenous chefs are bringing forth a food revolution of flavors, textures, and ingredients that, sadly, most Americans have no idea exist. It’s time Americans start actually eating the food from, well, America. The best place to start is with chef Sean Sherman’s ground-breaking The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. The cookbook is essential to embrace the food in your own backyard and, thereby, getting a deeper understanding of the place you chose to call home.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann

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I don’t care if you’re a big dumb whitey or #Pocahontas, this book will alter and/or greatly expand your knowledge and perceptions of what you THOUGHT the “New World” was like in the pre-Columbian Era. Did you know native Americans were herding and almost ranching Bison all the way into the New York area? …or that the expanse we call the Great Plains today was most likely much smaller and didn’t reach near as far north prior to Native American slash and burn practices? …or that there were most likely 3, and perhaps 4 migrations of peoples into the New World at least one of which appears to have predated the era when paleontologists originally thought the Siberian “land bridge” would have been passable? Seriously, give it a read or audible if you enjoy historical or prehistoric paleontological studies. #1491 #CharlesCMann

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Imagine if everything you knew about European Jewish culture was filtered through (a hypothetically victorious) Nazi Germany. It’d be a skewed and highly dubious account at best. That, precisely, is how Americans are taught Indigenous American history. Our vision of American Indian life is so far from the reality, it’s almost comical. Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus is the perfect place to start chiseling away at the lies your teachers taught you and the vile stereotypes Hollywood and pop culture insist on pushing.

Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, Jack Weatherford

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Buenas Tardes y'all 🙋🏾‍♀️ We have been wanting to start a reading circle for sometime now and it's finally happening! We will be gathering on Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00 pm at @blackandredcoop Come on down and learn about some of the ways in which Native people from Turtle Island have influenced the Americas and the rest of the World. This is a safe space for all reading levels. For and by Indigenous and brown folx. Refreshments and light snacks will be provided. Donation based. No one will be turned away. If you are planning on attending, DM us so we can save you a copy of the first few chapters. Thank you 🤓 #indigenousresistance #learntogether #indiangivers #readingcircle

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Anthropologist Jack Weatherford takes a different tact than Mann. Weatherford’s Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World takes a dive into the deep ways Indigenous American life informed the American government and legal systems, agricultural, medicine, architecture, and even how we practice democracy.

This book is full-on profound revelation after profound revelation that’ll connect you to America in a wholly new way.