November: National Native American Heritage Month and Ohio's Native Legacy

National Native American Heritage Month (Also referred to as Indigenous People's Awareness Month) is a time to honor the history, culture, and contributions of Native Americans. It is a dedicated period for reflection on the past and for educational efforts to increase awareness about Indigenous peoples' rich traditions and experiences. The goal is to foster a better understanding of the Indigenous heritage so intricately woven into the fabric of our state and nation.


The Importance of Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month isn't merely a period of historical study; it's a call to recognize the resilience and enduring spirit of Native American communities. It is an occasion to learn about historical misconceptions, to celebrate the vibrant cultures that have survived and adapted over time, and to ensure that Indigenous histories are part of our collective memory and educational discourse.


Ohio's Indigenous Legacy: A Brief Background

Before it became a state, the land we know as Ohio was home to various Indigenous tribes. These tribes, including the Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, and Seneca, had established thriving communities with rich cultural traditions and deep connections to the land. The earthworks and mounds that dot the Ohio landscape, such as those at the Serpent Mound site, stand as monuments to these ancient civilizations and their lasting legacy.

The name "Ohio" is itself derived from the Iroquois word "ohi-yo," which means "great river." This name is a testament to the significant role that the natural world, especially waterways, played in the lives of the Ohio Indigenous peoples. They were hunters, gatherers, farmers, and traders who built complex societies and left behind a heritage that today's Ohioans continue to learn from and cherish.


Ways to Celebrate National Native American Heritage Month

  • Educational Programs and Workshops: Participate in or host workshops on Indigenous history, rights, and contemporary issues. Encourage local experts or tribal members to lead the sessions.
  • Cultural Events: Attend cultural events or festivals that celebrate Indigenous music, dance, and art. These can provide a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich artistic expressions of Native peoples.
  • Support Indigenous Businesses: Make a conscious effort to support Indigenous-owned businesses and artists, including purchasing items from Native artisans or eating at restaurants that serve traditional Indigenous foods.
  • Curated Reading Lists: Create or follow a reading list that includes works by Indigenous authors. 
  • Film Screenings: Watch films and documentaries created by Indigenous filmmakers or tell Indigenous stories. 
  • Book Clubs: Organize book clubs in your school or community that focus on Indigenous authors or themes, offering a platform for discussion and insight.
  • Social Media Campaigns: Use social media platforms to raise awareness about Indigenous history and current issues. Share content from Indigenous creators, educators, and activists.
  • Library Displays: Visit or create displays featuring Indigenous authors, histories, and stories, making these resources easily accessible.
  • Art Exhibitions: Attend exhibitions featuring Indigenous artists or organize a display of local Indigenous art in public spaces.
  • Cooking Traditional Foods: Learn to cook traditional Indigenous recipes and understand the history and significance of the ingredients and dishes.
  • Donations: Contribute to nonprofits that support Indigenous communities, rights, and education.

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