5 Commitments for Native American Heritage Month
Hello friends and Happy Native American Heritage Month!
We are still here.
We have always been here.
We are strong, beautiful, ethereal, tired, and brave.
We have stories to tell every month, not just in November.
Today, I want to give you 5 important things to consider this month and in the coming months, because the most problematic thing about these months dedicated to people groups is that once the month is over, the celebration of people tends to die down, too.
So, make a commitment to celebrating Indigenous folks all the time.
Let’s get started on these commitments:
Don’t use fascination language— normalize our cultures.
We get this a lot— emails and well-intentioned chats with folks who are “fascinated” with us, who are “curious” about our ways/norms/beliefs. Here’s the problem with this language—it fetishizes us. When I’m told I’m “fascinating” I feel like a specimen in an experimental jar instead of a human being with stories and words to share. So, work toward normalizing Indigenous cultures. Remember that we’ve been here a long time and that we aren’t a monolith— we are layered human beings who live full lives just like everyone else, and our cultures add to those layers and are really beautiful.
Don’t fall for the land acknowledgment.
Here’s what often happens. I’m at a speaking event, and it’s clear that whoever is leading the event feels pressure to have a land acknowledgement while I am there, so they give one— but it’s hollow and performative, and doesn’t actually do anything for the Indigenous peoples of the land where it is given. A land acknowledgment is meant to create change, to provide action steps to a community, to lead people to examining the colonial systems they’ve been a part of and working toward acknowledging and respecting the Indigenous peoples of the land they are on. It’s about telling the truth and following that truth with the hard work of decolonization. If you are not ready for that, don’t do a land acknowledgment. And definitely don’t do one just because you have a Native person in the audience. Want to learn more? Click here for other First Nations opinions on this.
Make a plan.
This speaks to the problem of noticing Native Americans during November and then forgetting about us the rest of the year. Once again, it is performative, whether we recognize it as such, to post and share about people for a month and then forget about why they matter or what importance they add to society the rest of the year. So this year, make a plan to learn about Native peoples for the rest of the year— create a month by month schedule to focus on one thing you’d like to explore, and invite others to join you.
I recently posted to all of my social media accounts a 5-step plan for how to engage with teachers and schools when it comes to teaching about Indigenous peoples. I needed to do this because every year right as October comes to a close, I begin receiving messages and requests of advice for parents, churches and communities. While these requests are well-intentioned, they reveal a lack of boundaries in the world of social media and activism, that assumes that since Indigenous folks are already here posting and naming things, we are available for one-on-one (unpaid) consultations with those who request it. So, I ask that you honor the boundaries that Indigenous people set. Don’t ask for more than we offer. Pay us for our work. See us as people and not a product to be consumed.
Buy our stuff!
This is a month to celebrate culture! In supporting Indigenous businesses, entrepreneurs, creators, artists, activists, scientists and more, you are helping the world know that we are still here and that you acknowledge the gifts our cultures give. Yes, you can buy Native jewelry if you are non-Native! Yes, you can watch shows that celebrate our cultures! Yes, you can (and should) read our books and listen to our music!
Here are a few websites to get you started:
Honor the Earth—buy pipeline free wild rice for your holiday dishes & other amazing water protector merch!
Want clothes to celebrate Native women? SheNative Goods is a great place to start!
This website is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to know which children’s books are appropriate in representation of Indigenous peoples. Use it often and buy the books recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese, the website’s founder.
Are you a fan of comics? Super Indian is a wonderful pick. Grab them here.
Donate to The Kwek Society, an organization working to end period poverty for those in Indian Country.
Are you a paid subscriber to this journal? Supporting this work allows me to write and share resources like these with you all on a regular basis. Consider joining the Liminality community! Sign up here.
Buy medicine soaps and other products from Haipazaza, an Indigenous-run wellness brand. They make wonderful holiday gifts and the soaps are beautiful.
And, of course, USE GOOGLE! There are so many incredible lists of companies and organizations out there. The tools are available if we are willing to find them.
This month is about celebration. The hard stuff will always be here, but this month we gather in and remember that we have always been here, and future generations will carry on the work we can only dream about. Migwetch for sharing this space. Onward, together.