Today is Native American Heritage Day – it always falls on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s one of the newer holidays – created in 2008. It’s page on Wikipedia says it’s significance is that it is a day in honor of Native Americans. I think that’s something all of us can do, even if our ancestors immigrated to America centuries ago. That’s where I’m proud of my former state. When I was little, every year they would team up members of the local tribes to hold a cultural fair. Everyone was invited to come learn about Native American culture, the history of each tribe, their songs, their dances, their food, their stories, their crafts, their language. To be honest, I always thought it was brilliant and it always was a lot of fun.
You see, there was a time when Christians believed that it was their duty to convert their heathen neighbors. They created boarding schools where children from Native American tribes were given Christian names and their own names were forbidden, they were given new clothing and their own clothing was forbidden, they were given new hairstyles and haircuts and their own hairstyles and natural hair lengths were forbidden, they were given a new language and their own was forbidden, they were given a new education and the education from their own culture was forbidden, and they were given a Bible and all of their own beliefs were strongly discouraged. Now the festival that my old town put on did just the opposite – it gave everyone a Native American name, clothing, education, and shared with us their culture for a day without taking away anything that made us, well, us.
I really wish that it was something that was much more widespread, sadly it’s not. It’s unfortunate to know that every year, speakers of Native American languages are fewer and fewer. That their songs aren’t being sung and their stories aren’t being told. We can either wait for somebody to teach us, to try to reach out to the cultural centers and try to educate ourselves so we can educate others. Let’s not let Christianity destroy culture, but make a concerted effort to save it because it’s the right thing to do.