Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Native American Heritage Month Deserves Better

On October 31, the White House issued a presidential proclamation: statement saying “To continue safeguarding our freedom, we must develop a deeper understanding of our American story.” But who is telling this story? 

President Trump’s announcement to establish November as “National American History and Founders Month” clouds the importance of Native American Heritage Month, and erases the moral urgency of Native American issues. 

In current social and political narratives, Native Americans are pushed to the periphery, shrouded with stereotypes placed upon them by non-natives. The sense of otherness in contemporary conversation perpetuates misconceptions in both the curricula and the political field.

On the same day, the White House issued a reminder that November was Native American Heritage Month, though it curiously did not appear on its website. Yet still, the very fact that the current administration has issued an entirely new celebration on the same month of Native American Heritage Month, established over thirty years ago, feels like a slap in the face.

If this country wishes to “advance liberty and prosperity” for the next generation to be “steeped in the proud history” of America, there needs to be a recognition of the violent and invasive origin history of colonialism which birthed America as we know it today. A country can be proud without obscuring the facts; accurate history is paramount to have genuine and informed conversations about the present reality.

A recent study from Reclaiming Native Truth observed that “nearly half of Americans say that what they were taught in schools about Native Americans was inaccurate; 72 percent say it is necessary to make significant changes to the school curriculum on Native American history and culture.” 

Certain states are already taking steps to ensure more accurate tellings of history in the classroom. North Carolina’s State Board of Education controls the curriculum of American History and the origins of Thanksgiving, with a particularly focused lens on the Native American perspective. In fact, North Carolina doesn’t mandate the teaching of Thanksgiving at all—quite different from what BC’s students may have learned at school.

However, Trump’s push for National American History and Founders Month also stands behind states who, earlier this year, announced similar concepts. Florida’s America’s Founders’ Month takes place every September. Arkansas and Missouri also made efforts to inaugurate Founders’ Month. The legitimate establishment of National American History and Founders Month from the White House gives permission for more narrowminded patriotic recognition of America History.  

Native American Heritage Months needs to be recognized and done so on its own. Trump could’ve simply picked a different month, or not established a Founders’ Month at all. Native Americans deserve at least a single month to celebrate Native peoples and tribes, as well as an opportunity to spread awareness of the past and present oppressions which, ironically, can come even from the current President. A month dedicated to the native population of America should not be overshadowed by non-native narratives of a history filled with violence and oppression.

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