Native American Heritage Month emphasizes the importance of Native American culture and history and will be celebrated through several events hosted by the Department of Multicultural Services.
Though many Americans sit down to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal with nothing but thankfulness in their hearts, those of Native American descent view the holiday with mixed feelings. Native American Heritage Month shines a light on the experiences of these individuals and is a time to educate oneself on their experiences in order to better communicate and empathize with them.
AgriBusiness sophomore and member of the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization, or NAISO, Logan James said Thanksgiving is widely misconceived by many non-native peoples due to their lack of knowledge about its history.
“I love that it gives an opportunity to bring families together and enjoy a hearty meal, however it hurts my heart to know that families across America are essentially celebrating the beginning of the end of Native culture,” James said. “On Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks to my ancestors who died and fought to make sure I could still be here today and tell their story, not to the European settlers who colonized our nation.”
Especially around the time of Thanksgiving, James said Native history deserves a spotlight in cultural conversations.
“I encourage everyone who celebrates this holiday to take some time to educate themselves about Native issues, past and present,” James said. “I would like to draw attention to the fact that there is more than just history when it comes to the Native culture, there is a future.”
Every November, the Texas A&M Department of Multicultural Services holds events in honor of Native American Heritage Month. They held a CommUnity Conversation earlier in the month in collaboration with NAISO and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Working Group.
Diversity Education Specialist Angela Jackson said the event, “Land Grab U: Indigenous Peoples and Land-Grant Universities,” gave students the chance to learn from and engage with guest speakers.
“The speakers emphasized the importance of not only looking at Native American history as something in the past, but something that is living in the present,” Jackson said.
The department also puts on Cultural Exploration trips. This year, the trip features The Sacred Springs Powwow, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Jackson said the trips are usually in person, but will be held virtually due to COVID-19.
“In person, we would be able to go see the dance competition, talk to elders and see different Native American artifacts,” Jackson said. “The great thing about it being virtual this year is there’s a more educational component to it. You can learn about history, dance styles, and different food and recipes.”
Jackson said there will be a special opportunity for participants to win a free trip once in-person Cultural Explorations trips resume.
“There's a quiz students can take after participating,” Jackson said. “Once the powwow is over, I’ll draw a name from whoever submitted the quiz, and one person will win a voucher to participate in a trip when we resume after [COVID-19].”
The Sacred Springs Powwow website invites interested individuals to “experience Mother Earth’s heartbeat from the comfort of [their] home.”
Though the Native American population has diminished in number, James said they are still a people group that deserve to be celebrated and recognized.
“We are not gone, and we will not be forgotten,” James said.