November celebrations embrace Native American Heritage Month, national Native American Heritage Day, Veteran’s Day and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). For federal and military employees pledging your CFC support for charities in the coming year, and others interested in Native education, what a great way to remember Native Americans.
This month we’re recognizing Native American Heritage Month, and today we’re sharing this story on a Native American scholar assisted through the American Indian Education Fund (AIEF), a program of PWNA.
Originally from Chinle, Arizona, Alison Watson is Navajo. She attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, earning a B.S. in Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Anthropology. And today, Alison is pursuing her Ph.D. at University of Arizona.
She shared that a little sibling rivalry to see who can get their master’s first keeps her going. When she can’t make it home to see family, she remembers education and passing it on to her people is worth it.
In her words: “My dream of college would not have been possible without AIEF. Their scholarships helped me – I was not distracted by financial burdens at school – and this also helped my parents and siblings. I am so grateful for the past four years of AIEF support. Ahe’hee (thank you in Navajo). I hope you will remember Native students like me need and appreciate your support.”
PWNA applauds Alison Watson as a committed student and role model for Native American youth. For those of you participating in the Combined Federal Campaign, look for more on Alison and our AIEF video under CFC charity code 54766.
Last night, PBS aired the final installment of its newly released four-part docuseries, “Native America.” Timed around the celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, “Native America” uncovers research and studies centuries in the making and reminds us that pre-Columbus civilizations of indigenous Americans were some of the most advanced in human history.
The series is by veteran producer Julianna Brannum of the Comanche Nation and documentary filmmaker Gary Glassman who is known for his films with NOVA, Discovery Channel, History Channel and BBC. “Native America” is unlike many other documentaries as it explores America’s first peoples before European settlers arrive. Here are our four biggest takeaways from the series:
- Native Americans have long held a connection to the spiritual and the earth. Episode I, From Caves to Cosmos, explores who America’s First Peoples were and where they lived. Archeologists take viewers to New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon to learn more about the Hopi and their origin story.
- Native Americans inspired modern-day democracy. Episode II, Nature to Nations, visits the Pacific Northwest and upstate New York to map how Native American nations created some of the most sophisticated governments, evolving to democracies. This episode points out just how critical Native Americans were to the development of modern-day American democracy, inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy of the Haudenosaunee Nation.
- Native Americans built the first cities and pyramids. Episode III, Cities of the Sky, takes a closer look at how ancient Native Americans built their structures to align with the sun, moon and stars. The episode pays special attention to Cahokia, an ancient city discovered east of St. Louis, MI. Viewers may be surprised to know it was home to one of the largest pyramids in the world, older than the Egyptian pyramids.
- Native Americans used ancient traditions to combat conquest. Episode IV, New World Rising, highlights the Comanche empire across the Southwest and how they and their horses as allies resisted colonization. Ultimately, their practices in Native American foods, medicines and engineering were critical to their survival and today, they continue to preserve these ancestral beliefs and practices.
“Native America” is recommended to anyone who would like to learn more about the early and enduring contributions of indigenous people pre-America. The entire series is available for free online. For additional education, be sure to also catch PWNA’s short documentary on PBS that discusses food insecurity and a return to Native foods in tribal communities.
Last week, more than 110 million Americans cast ballots to elect new members of the United States Congress as part of the midterm election. Their votes resulted in many ‘firsts,’ including the first Native American women ever elected to Congress. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are among the 35 newly elected women who will represent their districts in the House of Representatives. A record-breaking 102 women will be serving in the House next year.
Sharice is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and will represent the state of Kansas in Congress. She was raised by a single mother, who spent more than 20 years in the Army, and attended Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas. She also earned a law degree from Cornell Law School and served as a White House Fellow. Sharice is an expert on economic and community development in Native communities and has worked with tribes to create economic development programs, opportunities and initiatives.
Deb is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and will represent the state of New Mexico in Congress. Deb’s parents served in the military for many years. She earned a law degree from University of New Mexico Law School while raising her daughter as a single mother. As the first Chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, she governs business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico and advocates for policies that support earth-friendly business practices.
As an advocate for self-determination of the tribes, PWNA recognizes the historical significance of Deb and Sharice’s achievements. Earlier this year, PWNA launched its inaugural 4 Directions Development Program (4D) for Strong Native Women, helping to develop stronger female leaders throughout Indian Country, with support of the PepsiCo Foundation. Electing Native American leaders into Congress gives a voice to the unique barriers Native communities face, while also introducing a new perspective and solutions to address shared concerns across their districts.
Now more than ever, states across the U.S. are establishing and celebrating a Native American Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day, many of them in place of Columbus Day. On a national scale, November is a time for all of us to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month.
Designated by Congress in 1992, American Indian Heritage Month is recognized annually by federal agencies, nonprofits and other organizations to honor Native American culture and heritage.
This November, PWNA encourages you to participate in our #RememberNativeAmericans campaign and learn more about the myths vs. realities facing many tribes today. Many people believe the U.S. government meets the needs of Native Americans under the treaties — including free housing, healthcare, education, and food; freedom from taxes; and distribution of government checks every month. The reality is that many federal treaty obligations are unmet and almost always underfunded, and many Native families struggle economically.
Join us throughout November to learn more about funding for tribes and help spread the word. Take our Myth vs. Reality quiz to test your knowledge about Native history and the reservations. Take action by Nov. 22 and be entered for a chance to win a giveaway prize drawing.
As part of our continued effort to inform readers of the news and culture of Native American communities across the country, Partnership With Native Americans has compiled our favorite stories from the month of October. Stay up to date and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more headlines.
First-year student, a Native American, promises herself to blaze trail for others via The Harvard Gazette
- “In the first week of her College life, Eva Ballew ’22, who grew up in a rural town of 3,000 in southern Wisconsin, promised herself always to stay grounded and to do everything she could to blaze a trail for others. Ballew was admitted to 10 colleges, including Dartmouth, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, and Northwestern. To decide among them, the first-generation college student displayed a maturity and perspective beyond her years. ‘When I was accepted to Harvard, I felt it was the first step to the rest of my life,’ said Ballew, the daughter of a Native American man and a Hungarian-American woman. ‘I thought about all the doors that could open not just for me and for my family, but for the Potawatomi children.'”
How is ASU going against trends of Native American college enrollment? via The State Press
- “Like many Native American students, Laura Gonzales-Macias was the first in her family to attend college. Born and raised in San Antonio, Gonzales-Macias has ancestral roots to the Tarahumara of northern Mexico. Her parents encouraged her to pursue higher education, so she got her bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Guided by dreams of the desert, Gonzales-Macias continued her education at ASU, where she received a doctorate in educational psychology. Now the associate director for American Indian Student Support Services at ASU, Gonzales-Macias works with current Native American ASU students, many of who are also the first in their families to attend college.”
Three New Mexico trailblazers honored by Native American Hall of Fame via Santa Fe New Mexican
- “Over the course of her 87 years, Native American activist LaDonna Harris has campaigned to be vice president of the United States, helped return federal land to Taos Pueblo and served on commissions appointed by five presidents. But her proudest accomplishment, her daughter Laura Harris said, has been mentoring Native Americans early in their careers. ‘She believes in replacing herself,’ Laura Harris said. ‘That’s one of her core indigenous values, is to find and nurture the upcoming leaders to take her place.’ The elder Harris, an Albuquerque resident and a member of the Comanche tribe, was among 12 Native American trailblazers — including three from New Mexico — inducted into the newly formed National Native American Hall of Fame on Oct. 13 in Phoenix.”
Native American women candidates seek historic wins in November via The Washington Post
- “… Though the emergence of so many Native American women running for office has seemed to come out of the blue, it is in many ways the result of seeds planted over the past decade at the community and regional levels. ‘The narrative had been that Native Americans were gone, that we’re invisible, that we’re part of history,’ said Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe who served as special adviser for Native American issues to President Obama. ‘Well, we’ve been here all along trying to be seen and trying to be relevant and trying to find ways to address our issues. I rejoice in the fact that we’ve got the visibility and are positioned to help lead and not just be seen, but to represent.'”
In my nearly 10 years with PWNA, I have met many generous people who’ve shared their time, knowledge, stories and sense of humor, whether it’s around a kitchen table, walking along a garden or foraging. From harvested Ceyaka (mint tea) and Tinpsila (wild/prairie turnips) in South Dakota to pinon nuts in Arizona, food sources are all around us and carry their own stories, flavors and uses.
Traditional indigenous foods are medicine. These foodways have suffered greatly due to colonization and federally-imposed nutrition programs that contributed to Native health disparities. Today though, our communities are renewing indigenous foods through seed banks and exchanges, garden projects and nutrition training to learn how best to use what Unci Maka (mother earth) provides us. Better still, Native chefs are using these foods and highlighting local ingredients that will better nourish tribal citizens.
Almost every gardener I have visited with speaks of the special connection between people and plants. The most successful growers shared that they sing and talk to their plants. Care and intention to cultivate nourishment must be given to grow something that will make it onto our tables and into our bodies. I talked to my plants this season and have been harvesting squash for two months.
The time of year is celebratory for many tribal communities, as they harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from individual and community gardens. During the upcoming holidays, many Native families will prepare indigenous foods, such as Salmon from the Northwest, Minnesota wild rice and walleye fish, blue corn and beans from the Southwest, buffalo and squash from the Plains or Montana berries and wild game.
With the support of Newman’s Own Foundation, PWNA is conducting Native food preparation training across Northern Plains and Southwest reservations and participating in the Native American Nutrition Cohort to collaborate on better food systems. The training includes traditional indigenous foods through foraging, ancestral foods and healthy nutrition, cooking techniques and even knife skill training. For many participants, the foraging lessons have been the most eye-opening; they learn that plants they may have deemed weeds have value as medicine and food, and that food is medicine.
Recently, youth and Elders gathered at a college in Wanblee, South Dakota and found an abundance of food sources right outside the door. They gathered Ceyaka used to flavor salad greens and melons and stinging nettle tea to help with muscle and joints aches. Another group from Chinle, Arizona foraged at Canyon de Chelly for Scarlet Globemallow flowers and Mormon and Navajo teas. The flowers are used for garnish and tea infusion, and the leaves can be sautéed with garlic and salt to accompany hummus.
All these efforts build on ancestral knowledge and traditional indigenous foodways. Many Elders and experts from our Native communities have stories and knowledge to share for the generations to come, and food – good food – locally grown with care.
How did we record history before we understood writing? In most cultures, the only way we remembered the past was through passing on stories word-of-mouth from one generation to another. These stories teach us lessons, give us history, and help us remember where our traditions come from, and in Lakota culture, we hold that you must tell every story just as heard or it loses its meaning.
Storytelling remains an inherent part of many indigenous cultures today. Historic records within tribal cultures consisted of weavings, paintings, drawings, pottery and other artistic mediums, but the important part of reading these recordings is interpreting them the correct way. Most often, the records “visualize” rather than “narrate” the story or event, and this is where some people get the story confused.
For centuries, us Lakota have carried our past through oral tradition, as we call it. These stories tell the origin of entire nations, why animals looked or acted the way they did, and where or how entire cultural traditions originated.
However, it may be in part due to storytelling “as record” that much of our history has been lost, some stories never retold, others forgotten and some dying with the last person to remember them. In today’s culture, we often tell stories through video and audio recordings, instead of hearing it from one’s grandparent or friend. This makes history more easily spread and known, but it also takes away from the tradition of storytelling.
There is meaning in hearing a story that has come to you from generations of past relatives, and there is meaning in passing it on. Now, there are so few who still practice remembering stories with the skill and cadence and fanaticism of a storyteller.
Hearing these stories was always one of my favorite things as a kid. Knowing that I could tell a story or talk about it with someone else was always such a great part of meeting others. When we all have that part of our culture to draw on and connect through, storytelling still unites our tribes across the miles and borders.
If you want to learn more about Native American storytelling, watch “Dream Keeper.” The film features stories from many indigenous cultures and an almost all-Native cast, including Eddie Spears, August Schellenberg, Chaske Spencer, Gary Farmer, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Cardinal Tantoo, John Trudell and more.
This October, PWNA is launching its inaugural 4 Directions Development Program (4D) for Strong Native Women, supporting the development of strong female leaders throughout Indian Country. The cohort commences this week in Santa Fe, New Mexico with 12 women who will partake in training sessions through March 2019.
4D training is an ongoing long-term solutions service that PWNA piloted in 2012 to help develop emerging leaders in reservation communities we serve, proactive individuals seeking to increase their knowledge and skills as community leaders. As part of the program, participants engage in a six-month training that includes personal and professional development, self-identified goal-setting and mentorship. All 4D program costs, including meals, lodging and travel for training, are covered by PWNA.
This year, PWNA sought to establish the first 4D all-women cohort, made possible through a grant from the PepsiCo Foundation, which invests in partnerships and programs to support at least 1.5 million girls and women becoming more workforce ready in the coming years. In addition to funding, members of PepsiCo’s Native American employee resource workgroup (known as RISE) will volunteer as mentor-advisors for the 4D participants. Many RISE members also mentor student scholars of our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program.
Each of the female candidates participating in the inaugural cohort of 4D Strong Native Women applied for the program and upon selection, committed to attending all training sessions and completing all aspects of the program. Participants will attend their first session on Thursday, Oct. 11 where they’ll learn about leadership styles, traditional leadership, lateral violence and self-care. Additional areas of development to be addressed in future trainings include public speaking, grant writing and financial education. Program facilitators will also customize sessions based on any needs identified by individuals or the group.
The second Monday of October is federally recognized as Columbus Day. Marked a national holiday in 1937, the day is set to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in the 15th Century. However, this ‘holiday’ has become the center of controversy in recent decades, asking individuals to question what really happened when Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
Columbus was an Italian explorer who set sail in 1492 determined to find a direct water route to Asia. Instead, he accidentally stumbled upon the Americas and was credited with ‘discovering’ the New World, which was already known and inhabited by hundreds of tribes. His voyages led to the eventual conquest and colonization of the Americas and brought displacement and suffering to many tribes, including enslavement, disease and the death of millions of Indigenous people.
For generations, U.S. history text books have revered Columbus as a hero. However, this is insensitive to those whose ancestors were here long before Columbus arrived, and for many Native people, this ‘holiday’ serves as a reminder of the loss and genocide he brought with him. To celebrate this seems to dismiss thousands of years of culture, history, thriving societies and contributions that originated solely with the Indigenous peoples on these shores, pre-Columbus.
Dozens of individual cities and states across the country have done away with Columbus Day, instead reclaiming the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. This newly recognized holiday celebrates the contributions, customs and traditions of Native Americans, reminding us they were here long before Columbus and the settlers they showed how to survive in the ‘New World.’
October marks a significant milestone in Native history – the anniversary of the US-Indian Conference of 1867 that culminated with the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty.
The “Medicine Lodge Treaty” commonly refers to the three treaties signed between the U.S. government and the Great Plains tribes that had settled in Medicine Lodge on the Kansas prairie, a sacred area to those tribes. The conference took place 70 miles south of Ft. Larned at the cusp of the Medicine Lodge River and Elm Creek, after a failed peace treaty earlier that spring. It is estimated that 5000-15,000 tribal members were in attendance.
The Medicine Lodge Treaty was intended to establish rules to end conflicts and bring peace to the region, albeit by relocating the tribes to reservations in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) and away from European settlers. For half a century before, Kansas, Nebraska and lands westward had been deemed unsuitable for settlers, so the U.S. had tried relocating all American Indians to one giant Great Plains reservation in an area known as the Great American Desert. However, Native Americans naturally began nomadically roaming the Plains beyond this unnatural boundary, and the U.S. found that threatening to further settlement, resulting in the Medicine Lodge peace talks.
The three separate treaties signed with five tribes at Medicine Lodge included one on Oct. 21, 1867 between the U.S. and the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache, and two a week later on Oct. 28, 1867 with the Cheyenne and the Arapahoe. The tribes ceded familiar lands and hunting grounds, in exchange for allotted reservation lands. They also unknowingly gave up their freedom to leave the reservation or practice their religion and traditions yet doing so was considered a breach of treaty.
Like so many times before and after, this only led to broken treaties with further reductions of land and freedoms. In the 1903 legal battle of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (187 U.S. 553), Kiowan Chief Lone Wolf claimed defraudation of land due to misrepresentations by the interpreter and lack of required votes. Congress found the treaty was void because it was not ratified by the required three quarters of the male tribal members. Then President William McKinley stepped in and allowed whites entry and settlement on the disputed lands, and the Supreme Court closed any further appeals or arguments on the case.
If I can share one key point to remember, it is the lasting impact of the Medicine Lodge Treaty and all treaties. Apparently, there came a point when the U.S. government decided it was okay to dehumanize us and evict us from our homes through our lack of understanding, and when we came to understand, loopholes or acts of Congress were put forth and treaties were broken. Much of this is the root of mistrust and the challenges affecting Indigenous peoples today.
October also reminds us of several other unfortunate events in Native history:
- On Oct. 5, 1813, Tecumseh, a Shawnee Chief widely regarded as a fighter for the rights of tribes, fell in battle, a casualty of the War of 1812.
- On Oct. 5, 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe surrendered to the U.S. at Bear’s Paw near the Canadian border declaring, “from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
- On Oct. 31, 1941, Mount Rushmore was completed with the figureheads of four presidents. The monument remains controversial to this day and is often seen as a mockery of the Black Hills sacred to the Lakota.