November is Native American Heritage Month. As one of the Southwest’s premier traders of Native American Indian art, we think it’s important to look at why we should and how we can honor and preserve the cultures and traditions of our country’s Native peoples.
A Month of Observation
Setting aside time to recognize the contributions of Native American Indians to the larger American culture has been a goal of Native Americans for more than 100 years. Prominent Native American Indian leaders have petitioned local, state and federal governments to declare a day (just one day) to honor first Americans’ contributions throughout U.S. history since the early 1900s. States declared various days to officially recognize Native American Indians’ heritage and accomplishments. (Recently, some states have replaced Columbus Day observations with days intended to honor Native American Indians and their culture.)
It wasn’t until 1990 that then President George W. Bush approved a joint resolution to designate the entire month of November as “National American Indian Heritage Month” (which as has since been renamed Native American Indian Heritage Month).
Why Honoring Native American Indian Heritage is Important
It is no secret that since European settlers have come to North America, Native American Indian populations have dwindled and suffered a number of atrocities. Despite the harsh treatment, which has included everything from being forced off the land of their ancestors to enslavement to murder, Native American Indians have survived and lent their wisdom to early Americans, allowing for their survival as well.
Honoring Native American Indian heritage cannot make up hundreds of years of mistreatment, but it can ensure a future free of it. When we take the time to find out how Native American Indians have contributed to the survival and development of the larger American culture, we acquire a new appreciation of the value of the skills, art and way of life of Native American Indian peoples.
When we can view cultural differences through a lens that values what is different (rather than seeking to eradicate it or force it to assimilate), we can re-evaluate stereotypes and the policies and practices that arise from them that do not encourage acceptance and peace. When we can see value in other ways of life, we can work to preserve them, so that generations have the benefit of Native American Indians’ wisdom, worldview and art.
How You Can Observe
The American Indian College Fund provides a number of ideas for how you can observe Native American Heritage Month, such as:
- Reading a book about Native American Indian history or prominent figures or written by a Native American Indian author.
- Watching a movie about Native American Indian history or starring Native American Indian actors /actresses.
- Enjoy a lacrosse game (because lacrosse is based on indigenous stick and ball games).
At Palms, we have a few ideas of our own:
- Learn more about Native American Indian art.
For centuries, Native American Indians have captured their experience of the world through art forms like pictographs (petroglyphs) and sand paintings. Many of the objects they created for daily living—pottery, rugs, for example—have also become art. By learning more about how these objects are created and the significance they may have to the religious/ceremonial life of Native American Indian tribes or to the survival of the clan, you acquire appreciation for different ways of life. You can learn more about Native American Indian cultures by visiting a museum or visiting our store. Our staff our knowledgeable about the art they trade, and they are happy to share their passion with you!
- Support Native American Indian artists.
Native American Indian artists keep the traditions of their clan/tribe/pueblo alive. By supporting the artists, you can support the preservation of the cultural traditions. The best way to support artists is by buying their work at a fair price. Some markets allow you to deal directly with the artist, or reputable dealers like Palms, carries a wide selection of authentic Native American Indian art that is priced to reflect the value of the artist’s skill.
You may also support potential artists by donating to the Palms Trading Company Scholarship Fund.