Did you know November is National Native American Heritage Month? Indigenous Peoples protect 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands, and marine environments in which they have lived for centuries. Yet they are constantly targeted, harmed, and silenced despite their important work (or perhaps, because of it). Their efforts often receive little acknowledgement or media coverage. If we are to combat climate change, we must learn from Indigenous Peoples, support their work, and elect them into positions of political power to elevate their voices. Here’s how we can honor Indigenous Peoples this month and every month moving forward.
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4 Ways to Honor Indigenous Peoples This Native American Heritage Month
1. Learn whose land you’re on
First off, if you didn’t already know, you’re living on stolen land. The most basic thing you can do to right this wrong is to look up whose land you’re on using Whose Land and Native Land. From there, you can research the tribe that used to live there and learn about them.
For example, I used Native Land to find out I’m living on the Munsee Lenape tribe’s land. They were known as fierce, great warriors. This article I found in the Smithsonian Magazine talks about the Lenape tribe’s history in Manhattan, but also how some Lenape people are striving to reawaken their cultural heritage in the city.
There’s also an article on SI Live that specifically talks about the Lenape people in Staten Island and the history. There were also Native American burial sites found on Staten Island. The saddest part is that most Lenape today don’t live in New York or the surrounding area. But there’s hope to change that.
One of the most fascinating things I learned was about The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash. Native Americans plant these together (a stark comparison to monocultures) because they help one another grow. Corn acts like a trellis for the beans, the beans add nitrogen back to the soil, and the squash prevents weeds from overpowering the ground covering. Each has a purpose.
I encourage you to learn all you can about Native American culture and heritage – and remember, they’re still here! So don’t use past pronouns when describing their culture like most textbooks do.
2. Read a book about Native American history, or the Native American experience
Better yet, a book that was written by a Native American. My favorite is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer – I think it may just be the best book I’ve ever read.
Kimmer has a way of speaking directly to your soul; Her words are nourishing and eye opening all at once. She talks of how Indigenous People are connected to the earth and their environmental stewardship.
She shares Indigenous wisdom and insight but also reflects on how that applies to todays world. If there’s one book everyone should read, I’d by far say it’s hers.
There are so many other books that link Indigenous Peoples with environmentalism as well. I’ve heard great things about As Long As Grass Grows by Dina Gilio-Whitaker and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Jean Mendoza, and Debbie Reese.
3. Donate to Native American and Indigenous charities
Remember how I said Indigenous Peoples were responsible for protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity? The cruel irony is they’re also the first people to face the effects of climate change. On top of this, they only make up 5% of the world’s population.
That’s why supporting indigenous groups is so important – in all kinds of ways. Consider donating to organizations such as @indigenousrising, @seedingsovereignty, @honortheearth, and @nativeamericanrightsfund. At the least, follow these groups on Instagram to help diversify your news feed.
4. Support Indigenous activists and businesses
Lets speak bluntly – Native Americans deserve their land. And the best thing we can do for them is to support them any way we can. Whether that means following them on social media, standing beside them at protests, or simply supporting their businesses – it all counts.
I personally recommend following:
- @quannah.rose – An Indigenous climate warrior (featured on the cover of Nat Geo!) + fashion model
- @indigenous_baddie – Activist and influencer
- @beampaints – A plastic-free, handmade, all-natural paint brand – and 100% Indigenous family entrepreneurship
- @nativerenewables – Indigenous-led org working on low cost clean energy solutions for Native American families & communities
- @ms_eagleheart – Emmy winning social justice storyteller
- @repdebhaaland – 1st Native American Congresswoman
So, what are some other ways we can honor Indigenous Peoples now and always? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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