Native American Heritage Month


My relative, Mahto Tatonka

November ushers in Native American Heritage Month in the United States.

Over the next 30 days, local schools will host events and federal institutions like the Smithsonian will sponsor celebrations that bring into focus the history and currency of being Native.

Frankly, I get rather cross when I think about celebrations underway, against the backdrop of efforts—sanctioned by the federal government—to strip Native Americans of our rights and harm our communities.

The federal government’s crusade to open sacred lands to mining and oil exploration is beyond reproach.

And the thought of the White House honoring Native peoples for photo opportunities this month, while ravaging consecrated ground purloined for profit, exemplifies hypocrisy.

And it is cowardly.

Government officials and their corporate cronies lack the courage to meet tribal peoples face-to-face to hammer out how to best manage natural resources that belong to Native communities.

What Indigenous people lack in 2019 is equal footing at the bargaining table: recognition of our rights as sovereign people.

Each November, I write stories where I encourage readers to take an Indigenous perspective—to view events, issues and ideas through a Native lens.

One of my friends from British Columbia—a Native individual—tells a story where his people met with federal officials–on their homelands–to hammer out policies.

Native denizens requested the visitors address them by their traditional names.

That single act of respect turned the discussion upside down, because the visitors were asked to step into the framework of the Native peoples.

I encourage you to find moments in November when you can adopt a Native lens to view your journey.


1 November 2019

British Columbia
















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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1 Response to Native American Heritage Month

  1. Cynthia, sadly, I am daily reminded that my father, a lifelong military man and first responder, always warned me that in the end Governments will take as much as they can from us. How terribly sad that his fear remains justified. I wonder what he would say about the present moment if he were yet alive.


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