Vol. LII No. 11
November 2017

Native American Heritage Month offers time to study, reflect


We live in a modern world that spins much faster than just one century ago. So many innovations in work, transportation, health care, finance and especially technology have made ours truly a “hustle bustle” world.

November is “Native American Heritage Month,” and this is a great time to reach into your past and discover the important elements that have made you the Chickasaw you are today. A little research this month can open vistas you never thought possible!

Your Chickasaw citizenship makes you highly unique and the beneficiary of a rich and storied history. We are descendants of the people who inhabited North America long before European contact. It is the opinion of many scholars that only a few million people populated all of the North American continent in the centuries leading up to contact. Those people were gathered in many unique communities across the continent. Our tribe, and the several hundred other original tribes of the Americas, lived in a world it is important for each of us to understand and appreciate.

Native American Heritage Month had its beginnings a little more than 100 years ago when the Boy Scouts of America initiated “First Americans Day.” In the 1920s, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the second Saturday of each May “American Indian Day.”

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution of Congress designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

The month of November is a great time to engage in some study and develop a greater appreciation for who we are.

The Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of the American Indian, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art all offer information, images and study guides. And for teachers, this is the perfect opportunity to share Chickasaw and Indian heritage lessons with students.

Locally, the Chickasaw Nation Department of History and Culture and the Chickasaw Cultural Center are great sources of information. The Holisso Center, on the grounds of the Cultural Center, is a wonderful place to learn about your Chickasaw heritage. Take a day for discovery at the Cultural Center and you will enjoy a great experience!

There are so many ways today to reconnect with the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw Press offers a number of titles that will assist you in your research. The Chickasaw language program is a great place to learn your traditional language and make connection with Chickasaws who can help guide your study. Talk with a Chickasaw artist and learn the sources of their inspiration to tell their stories. And connecting with a Chickasaw elder will very often open up a whole new world of discovery.

It is so important we understand who we are. We can no longer talk with our ancestors who endured removal from our homelands, but we can talk with present-day Chickasaws who have stories to pass on. You will likely be surprised by how much information has been passed on through the generations!

It can be easy to put off a little voyage of discovery about your Chickasaw heritage. The demands of work, school and family seem to always fill the calendar.

This month, Native American Heritage Month, resolve to take just a little time to engage in discovery. Strengthen your connection to the Chickasaw Nation. You will almost certainly uncover information to enrich your life as a modern Chickasaw citizen.