Remembering through Native American Heritage Month

This November, people across the country are honoring National Native American Heritage Month. In 1990, Congress expanded what had previously been “American Indian Week” into a month-long celebration. November was chosen because it marks the end of the harvest season, making it a time of thanksgiving and celebration for Native Americans. While this month provides a special opportunity to celebrate indigenous culture and the contributions Native Americans have made to our country, it is important to also use this time to address the serious issues facing the Native American community.

Like most institutions within the United States, Northwestern’s campus was built on the original homelands of several Native American tribes, such as the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. Recently, there has been controversy regarding John Evans, one of Northwestern’s founders, and his involvement in the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. With the recent release of the report on Evans, Northwestern has been making progress towards creating a more respectful and responsible community. For example, the university is now in the process of hiring a new, full-time assistant director to work in Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) while focusing specifically on Native American issues.

 A meeting between the US military and leaders of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, just a few months prior to the Sand Creek Massacre

A meeting between the US military and leaders of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, just a few months prior to the Sand Creek Massacre

This year for Native American Heritage Month, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI) and MSA will be offering a variety of lectures, artistic performances, and other educational programs throughout the rest of fall quarter. For information about any of these events, visit the MSA website or follow them on Facebook. Most of the events are free and will admit at the door, so there is no need to RSVP. One event that may be especially interesting to students is the commemoration to honor those who lost their lives during the Sand Creek Massacre. This event will be held in Scott Hall on Saturday, November 18, from 12:00-2:00 PM.

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To finish off Native American Heritage Month, the American Indian Center of Chicago will host their 64th Annual Pow-Wow on Northwestern’s campus on Saturday, December 9. This is a very special event and it is an incredible privilege for Northwestern to be involved in this social event. Everyone is welcome, so keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post with more details about the Pow-Wow.

Even after heritage month is over, students can continue to stay involved in the Native community on campus by joining Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA), a student group whose mission statement is “to increase visibility and raise awareness of Native American and Indigenous cultures and to discuss issues facing Native American and Indigenous students and the Native American and Indigenous community.” They host events for students throughout the school year, and are always open to new faces. Anyone interested in learning more should follow NAISA on Facebook.

To build an inclusive campus community, everyone should feel that their identity and culture is respected, which is why National Native American Heritage month is so important, particularly given the university’s history with Native American people. Regardless of personal identity, the programs offered for this month provide valuable education for all students.