Native American Heritage Day Statement
November is Native American Heritage Month, also commonly referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. It was declared by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Additionally, the Friday after Thanksgiving, was declared to be Native American Heritage Day by President George W. Bush in 2008. While these actions have been taken to formally acknowledge the historical genocide that Indigenous Americans experienced, their timing has been legitimately criticized.
Most people in this country are not thinking about Native American Heritage after Thanksgiving because the following day is Black Friday. In an interview, journalist and activist of the Ogalala Nation, Simon Moya-Smith spoke out against Native American Heritage Day landing on Black Friday, because it is "a day of excess and gluttony and greed and aggressive capitalism". He also went on to say that he would rather have Native American Heritage Day be a day that students are in school learning and not "after a holiday that omits the murder and mutilation of Natives [in which they] mourn the millions of indigenous people who died as a result of aggressive settler colonialism." That holiday that he is referring to is Thanksgiving, which is also known as the National Day of Mourning, an annual protest that has been organized by the United American Indians of New England since 1970.
We should take responsibility for re-educating ourselves so that we learn the true history of this country and its past and present mistreatment of Native Americans. There are many ways to recognize Native American Heritage Month and Day, such as reading about American history from Native writers or donating to Indigenous organizations and/or causes. Examples include the Native American Rights Fund, the Native Wellness Institute, the Warrior Women Project, Sitting Bull College, and many more.
We also recommend learning as much as you can about the people indigenous to the land you live on. With the website native-land.ca you can enter your zip code and see what tribes were in the area, languages they spoke, and treaties. As MAEOE moves forward to honor our commitment to racial justice and indigenous sovereignty, we will create a land acknowledgment to serve as a simple reminder that we are occupying indigenous land.
As we begin to take these essential steps, we want to remind everyone that this is the beginning of a long conversation. The type of change that we envision does not happen overnight, but we encourage everyone to begin taking action to make this world a more inclusive and equitable place.
The MAEOE Board, Advisory Council, and Staff