Native American Heritage Month
President Joseph R. Biden recently proclaimed November as National Native American Heritage Month and November 25, 2022, as National Native American Heritage Day. These designations give us an opportunity to reflect on the many Indigenous cultures that continue to thrive throughout the United States (US) despite hundreds of years of war, forced displacement, and settler colonialism. As noted by the President, in the face of intergenerational trauma, many Indigenous communities continue to build community structures, Tribal governmental entities, and language revitalization programs.
I encourage UCI students, faculty, and staff – as well as our alumni and community partners – to take time this month to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the historical legacy and contemporary issues of Indigenous groups around the country and the broader Americas. A starting point for those interested in history is the very important report prepared by the US Department of the Interior, “Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report.” This document shows in detail that between 1819 and 1969, the US operated and supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states that targeted American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children in a policy of forced assimilation to erase and suppress their native cultures. Children were removed from their homes and relocated at schools that sought to eliminate native languages and belief systems. The report can be found here.
For those who prefer literature, I recommend the recent novel The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, a major contemporary writer and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The Sentence is set during the 2020 pandemic. If poetry is more to your taste, I recommend the collection An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, former US Poet Laureate, and a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. You can also access Harjo’s poems at the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/joy-harjo.
Here are additional suggestions for ways to engage with various communities:
- Join in fellowship at an upcoming pow wow – organizers invite Native Americans and non-Natives alike to celebrate at the Native American Veteran’s Association Pow Wow in South Gate on November 12 and November 13 (https://www.navavets.org/events) or attend the Los Angeles Pow Wow 2022 on December 3 in Grand Park (https://calendar.powwows.com/).
- Visit the “First Californians” exhibit at the Bowers Museum (2002 North Main Street in Santa Ana). Tickets range from $12 for students and seniors to $15 for adults at: https://www.bowers.org/index.php/current-exhibition/first-californians.
- Speak with the staff and instructors to explore a minor in Native American studies at UCI. Program website at: https://www.humanities.uci.edu/nas.
I hope that you can take time to reflect during this month.
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Interim Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion