Students celebrate American Indian Heritage month

November is American Indian Heritage month. It is Also known as Native American and Alaska Native Heritage month, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

Weasly Two Eagles Wright, a junior studying humanities, is of the Cheroenhaka Nottoway tribe and celebrates American Indian Heritage month.

“I own a business centered on my Native American, culture called Two Eagles Legacy,” Wright said. “I make and sell traditional and contemporary powwow dance regalia as well as 2,000 other crafts.”

Residing in Rexburg, Wright has made time to educate and share the Native culture.

“I do a lot of cultural diversity lectures for businesses and schools,” Wright said. “I usually get booked during the month of November for schools around Idaho. My presentations include showing off artifacts, storytelling, dancing and flute playing.”

Lawrence Coates, a professor in the history department, explained why American Indian Heritage month is celebrated.

“This commemorative month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance and ways and concepts of life,” Coates said. “This gives Native people the opportunity to express to their community, both city, county and state officials, their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area.”

In May 1916, the first American Indian Day was celebrated in New York, according to the Native American Heritage Month Web page.

In spring of 1914, Reverend Red Fox James, aka Red Fox Skiukusha, traveled on horseback for miles to Washington D.C. for a request from the president for an “Indian Day,” according to                   bia.gov, a government website dealing with Indian affairs.

The following year, Red Fox Skiukusha traveled state-to-state on horseback, seeking gubernatorial provision for U.S. citizenship to be extended to American Indians, according to bia.gov.

In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, extending citizenship to all U.S.-born American Indians. The act was later modified to comprise Alaska Natives, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Web page.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a combined resolution dedicating November “National American Indian Heritage Month,” according to the Native American Heritage Month Web page.

“Unlike popular belief, we are not anti-Thanksgiving,” Wright said. “Yes, bad events came about from European interaction, but we celebrate the fact that one Native American, Squanto of the Patuxent, took pity on a race of people that would have died if he didn’t teach them to live off the land.”

Wright shared the foods his family prepares for their Thanksgiving dinner.

“Some of the traditional foods that we eat during our Thanksgiving meal is turkey, deer meat, fish and also the three sisters,” Wright said.

The three sisters consists of corn, green beans and squash, according to the Mother Earth News.

“By teaching Native American traditions and culture, we can encourage others to learn from where they came from,” Wright said. “History tends to repeat itself because people do not learn from the past, and how can we expect to fix the future if we can’t learn from the past?”

Coates proposed a way others can develop a better reverence towards this month.

“Americans should honor American Indian Heritage month by reading about their past,” Coates said. “To celebrate Thanksgiving, watch the Kevin Costner’s exploration of America’s                      Indian heritage.”

He said to watch episode four of 500 Nations, “Invasion of the Coast, the first English settlements.”

“This DVD shows what happened to celebrate the Native American tradition of giving thanks to the Great Spirit for the abundance of  the earth.”

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