Celebrate the Forgotten Voice

November 08, 2016
 
Elementary age Native American boy  in ceremonial dress dancing

I have always believed that teaching my children about various cultures was the right thing to do.  I know that it makes them more well-rounded individuals and helps foster an understanding and appreciation for differences. I started to think about things I’ve done with my children or students over the years and realized we have done and experienced a lot: we’ve attended Chinese Lunar celebrations, we celebrate Black History all year long (not just in February), we’ve been to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, we’ve read stories and seen movies about the Holocaust, we’ve made sugar skulls in celebration of Día de los Muertos, and we’ve eaten and tasted food from all around the world-just to name a few!- So, yes, I am proud of the little things we have done, and as I’ve kept seeing more media coverage about the Dakota Access Pipeline, it made me realize that there is a voice that I have not focused as much on with them; and that is the voice of our Native American brothers and sisters. The good news is that it’s never too late to start!

Did you know that according to the National Congress of American Indians, there are 566 federally recognized Indian Nations (sometimes called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, Rancherias, and native villages) in the United States? Approximately 229 of these ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse nations are located in Alaska; the rest are located in 33 other states.  November is recognized as National American Indian Heritage Month but many schools fail to even mention this to our children.  That is why it is important to talk about topics like this in our homes. 

One of the easiest ways to teach children about other cultures is to read books or watch movies. First Nations Development Institute has a recommended list of Native American Children’s Literature to get our families more involved in celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month.   PBS Learning Media has a lot of quick videos that help children learn about Native American culture and celebrating Native American Indian Heritage Month. Pinterest has thousands of Native American crafts or activities we can do with our children. If you have time or are feeling adventurous and have the finances, there are also many sites you can visit throughout the United States. And right here, in our own backyard, we have an entire list of places to help educate or experience Native American culture in Illinois.

No, participating in these activities will not make us experts, but what it will do is help bring awareness to the native people of this land. Chief Sitting Bull said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” If we all work to continue to support and broaden the understanding of differences with our children, it will help aid them in becoming the global minded young adults they need to be successful in today’s society.