Do you celebrate Native American Heritage Month? I haven’t become very aware of it until the past few years. And though I’ve been learning more about the stories and heritage of the host peoples of our land year-round, I haven’t usually done anything much different during November.
But this year, I had several ideas of simple but important ways we can remember and honor First Nations peoples this month. Here are my thoughts—I hope you’ll add more!
I think of the cry of the Navajo hero in my first novel manuscript—“When will anyone ever listen to my people?” From unkept treaties of the past to government representation today to marginalization in our history books, Native Americans have rarely been truly listened to.
Do you know any friends of Native heritage? Are there any Native cultural events in your area this month? Ask for and genuinely listen to their stories and perspectives. And when Native issues come up in the news, whether water rights or the Washington Redskins, let’s try to listen and understand rather than jumping in with our own preformed conclusions.
We can also read blogs of those trying to educate, heal, and inform, like Mark Charles with his Wireless Hogan website and blog—I’ve learned so much through listening to him and his family.
We can watch movies that thoughtfully portray Native American history and culture. For adults and mature teens, try Dances with Wolves, Windtalkers, or the excellent PBS docudrama Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (preview all for violence and mature content).
If you have children, try the family movie Caddie Woodlawn for a gentler story of relationships between the Native inhabitants and white settlers of the Wisconsin frontier. I’m sure there are others, so feel free to suggest below! Even Pocohontas, for all its Disneyfication, has some good talking points.
Books can be a wonderful way to learn more about First Nations history and culture.
If you like novels, try Lori Benton’s Burning Sky, Laura Frantz’s Courting Morrow Little, Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree, or James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom’s Warrior Woman. Their fiction lifts the curtain on a side of history often not dealt with in America…but that needs to be.
For nonfiction, I highly recommend Richard Twiss’s One Church, Many Tribes. While an engaging read, the issues dealt with in this book can be hard to digest…yet it is so good I’ve gone back to it multiple times. I also want to read more by mainstream Native authors like Sherman Alexie and Lewis Johnson.
We can ask the Lord to show us how to build up these ministers of the gospel dealing with generations of displacement and hurt. First Nations peoples are uniquely poised to be channels of God’s Kingdom spreading throughout the earth, but the enemy has raised many barriers in the way.
And build relationships. Relationships are the most important thing in Native American culture, yet when the American church even notices the host peoples of its land, we tend to focus on curiosity or aid programs…not long-term investment in relationship building. Rachel Charles, Mark’s wife, says it far better than I in her article here.
We can ask the Lord’s blessing on the First Nations of our land and those ministering to them. Ask the Lord to bring repentance, healing, and reconciliation to our nation between immigrant and native peoples. And ask Him how He wants us to be involved.
Well, those are my ideas! What about you? Have you ever celebrated Native American Heritage Month? Do you have suggestions to add? Please comment and share!
And if you are of Native heritage yourself, I’d be especially grateful to hear your thoughts on how we can honor you and your people this month.