American Indian Heritage Month ending

This is the last week of American Indian Heritage Month and I have seen nothing locally that would inform residents that this commemoration even exists let alone doing anything to honor it. For that matter I haven’t seen anything in the national media either. There may have been something but I didn’t see it. What with the Carlisle Indian School having been in our midst, one would think it would have at least been mentioned. If it wasn’t for the trusty internet, I wouldn’t know a thing about it.

One good thing I’ve learned is that the politically-correct terms have been sorted out. American Indian is preferred over Native American and the specific tribe or nation is preferred over that. Native American is too broad a term and, worse yet, sounds too bureaucratic. A pet peeve of mine is the frequent mention of something being a Native American song or a Native American custom. To start with, this is silliness. Would we say golf is a European game? Of course not. We know the Scots invented it. Would we lump Scots and Italians together as if they had a common heritage? I think not.

There may be reasons other than ignorance or laziness for attributing something to Native Americans. For example, Chief Seattle is often quoted as having spoken eloquently about the environment. To start with he was not a chief and his name was See-ahth, which was difficult for white people to say and was likely bastardized into Seattle, something they could pronounce. See-ahth was born in 1786 and died in 1866. In addition to being a great speaker, he was a diplomat. He gave a speech in 1854 but it wasn’t the one he is so often credited with having made. That speech was written in 1971 by screenwriter Ted Perry. Perry’s speech didn’t paraphrase See-ahth’s words. It couldn’t because there were no buffalo within 600 miles of his home to see rot and railroads didn’t come to his area until years after his death.

Rather than providing references, I will leave to the reader the task of verifying what I have written. Fortunately, it is an easy task.

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3 Responses to “American Indian Heritage Month ending”

  1. Barbara Landis Says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m sorry you missed the amazing event at Messiah College last week when Dovie Thomason, Kiowa-Apache storyteller, shared her “The Spirit Survives” story. I did publicize the event on my blog, and there were about 150 people present to hear Dovie give a heartfelt history of the Carlisle Indian School by describing her response to her daughter’s questions about the place where some of her relatives had gone to school. It is rare, indeed, when there is opportunity to hear the Indian boarding school story(ies) from the inside, and I only hope there will soon be more opportunities for events like the one at Messiah. Dovie was the first person to appear at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC when the new museum opened, and she will be appearing there again November 28th. So – your blog visitors won’t have to travel TOO far to take advantage of the programming. Maybe we can get her to Dickinson College to enlighten local audiences. That might be something to work toward, eh?

    Best,
    Barbara Landis
    “Getting the Carlisle Indian School names to the nations…”

  2. tombenjey Says:

    Barb,

    It’s good that you were able to get that many people out. It’s unfortunate that that the media gives this month so little attention that it’s necessary for bloggers to do so much. Months for other groups seem to get a lot of media attention.

    Tom

  3. tombenjey Says:

    yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC. Immediately upon entering the museum we were offered buttons commemorating Native American Heritage Day. I said, “Isn’t that the whole month?” The woman responded that I was the first person to mention that and seemed a bit surprised that anyone was aware of it. The media do an excellent job of promoting other observances but, for reasons unknown to me, ignore American Indian Heritage Month.

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