November was officially designated as a heritage month to recognize America’s original inhabitants and celebrate their rich culture and contributions in 1990, then referred to as National American Indian Heritage Month. But efforts to pay tribute to Indigenous people started long before. Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, rode horseback across the U.S. seeking approval for a day to honor Native Americans and presented an endorsement from 24 states to the White House in 1915. The first official American Indian Day was declared by the New York state governor in May 1916.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” There are 574 federally recognized nations, tribes, and pueblos within the U.S. comprising over 3.7 million people. Self-governance is at the heart of Native people’s ability to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.
So, how can you celebrate in Houston?
Listen and Learn
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Houston Public Media has published audio vignettes telling the history of Indigenous and native people from across the country. For example, follow the story of Sophia Alice Callahan, known as the first Native American woman to write a novel, or Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez, a San Antonio artist who helped humanize Native American history through his artwork.
Music At Mercer Botanic Gardens
Today, the Apollo Chamber Players and Harris County Public Library host “Moonstrike,” a program of new music created by Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate. The music is inspired by American Indian moon legends. Listen to the program at the beautiful Mercer Botanic Gardens at 7 p.m. This same show will also take place on Thursday at a library in Crosby.
Dance by the American Indian Alliance
Finally, you can watch dance performances from The American Indian Alliance at Barbara Bush Branch Library on Friday afternoon. They will also share traditional history and music.
Do you have other ideas on how to celebrate? Let me know.