MCHR Diversity Spotlight - Native American Heritage Month
In 1976, Congress, in conjunction with President Gerald Ford, designated one week each year in October as Native American Awareness Week, a tradition that continued until August 1990, when President George H.W. Bush approved the transition to National American Indian Heritage Month, celebrating the accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices of American Indians and Alaskan Natives each November. Each year, a similar proclamation is issued, and in 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation renaming November as National Native American Heritage Month, saying, “Our debt to our First Americans is immense, as is our responsibility to ensure their fair, equal treatment…” In addition, President Obama signed into law the Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009, designating the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day of each year as Native American Heritage Day.
The month-long celebration recognizes hundreds of different tribes and approximately 250 languages. Missourians pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of our Native Americans; the original inhabitants of our state were peoples from several tribes, including Chickasaw, Illini, Ioway, Missouri, Osage, Otoe, and Quapaw. Missouri’s Native American roots are centuries old and remain a significant part of our state’s unique identity. Discover the story of early Native Americans in our area, even before Missouri became a state in 1821, through objects, including stone tools, arrowheads, beadwork, and clothing, on display in the Missouri State Museum on the first floor of the State Capitol. Admission is free. For more information, call 573-751-2854 or e-mail email@example.com.
Today, more than 72,000 Missourians identify their race, either entirely or in part, as American Indian/Alaska Native. One way to respect our history is to prevent others from discriminating against Missourians who belong to the Native American community. In fact, the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) protects all Missourians from adverse treatment because of their race or ancestry, and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR), a state agency, enforces the MHRA by investigating complaints made by persons who believe they have been discriminated against in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation. If you suspect you have been discriminated against due to your race or other protected category, contact MCHR at 877-781-4236 or take this assessment to determine if the MHRA applies to your situation.
Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by exploring these sites, activities, and events across our state:
- Arrow Rock State Historic Site Visitor Center presents Osage Culture: Then and Now on Nov. 2. Other activities and attractions include walking and driving tours, a museum operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and dinner at J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. For more information, call 660-837-3330 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- "Missouri" is a Siouan Indian word defined as "town of the large canoes," "wooden canoe people," or "he of the big canoe." Set afloat in your own canoe on one of Missouri’s many scenic waterways throughout the state, or if you would rather explore from the comfort of dry land, visit the Missouri State Museum on Nov. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. for Exploring Missouri Waters. For this event, the Resources Hall of the Museum is transformed into a world of water. Take a pretend-trip down the river, learning about other wetland features as you travel. The evening includes other related hands-on activities and information. For details, call 573-751-4127.
- Were your ancestors Native American? Research your family tree at the National Archives, Central Plains Region in Kansas City, 400 West Pershing Road, which houses various records from 12 tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, census rolls, land allotment files, and more. For hours and questions, call 816-268-8000 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Cottey College is hosting A Native American Cultural Forum on Nov. 2 at the Cottey College Center for the Arts, 1000 West Austin, Nevada, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Arts and crafts vendors will be in attendance. Other activities include American Indian speakers on Native History and Culture from 9:45 to 11 a.m. and Current Native Concerns from 2 to 3 p.m.; films screened at 11:15 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 6 p.m.; and various demonstrations throughout the day. For more information, call Erica Sidauke at 417-667-6333, ext. 2179 or e-mail Abby Pino at firstname.lastname@example.org or Patricia Pino at email@example.com.
- Missouri State University, 901 South National Avenue, Springfield, will celebrate Native American Heritage Month throughout November. Grammy-winning Native American flautist Joseph FireCrow will be featured on Nov. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Carrington Hall Theater. For more information, call 417-836-4626 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Various films on Native American heritage are available at the university's Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP). The OMP will also host the 9th Annual Native American Heritage Month Powwow on Nov. 16 and 17, with doors opening at 9 a.m. on both days. For more information, call 417-836-5652 or e-mail email@example.com.
- The Kansas City Indian Center, 600 West 39th Street, holds Culture Night the first Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. The event on Nov. 6 will showcase American Indian food (potluck), beading, drumming, discussion, and children's activities. Call 816-421-7608 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
- The holdings of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, include three galleries encompassing the American Indian Art Collection, featuring pottery, basketry, quilt and beadwork, sculpture, and more. Two of the main attractions are a group of classic Navajo and Pueblo textiles and a selection of Rio Grande Pueblo pots. The gallery is among the largest devoted to Native peoples of North America in any comprehensive art museum in the world. For more information, call 816-751-1278.
- Osage Indians were the first to discover a cavern they called “The Devil’s Den,” which, hundreds of years later, is one of the state’s most visited underground attractions, Marvel Cave. One of the largest subterranean entry rooms in the United States is the start to the cave’s tours, which depart every half-hour between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. from 399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson. For details, call 800-831-4386.
- Imagine 18th century Osage village life on a peaceful hilltop spot that once was the home of approximately 3,000 Native peoples and about 200 lodges. Osage Village State Historic Site, located on Highway C in Harwood, approximately 16 miles northeast of Nevada, features a trail and outdoor exhibits that help visitors visualize the former community. Print a site map and walking tour to enhance your time at this state park.
- St. Charles Community College, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, Cottleville, will host a series of events to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. A film by acclaimed director David Sutherland, Kind-Hearted Woman, will be screened in the Social Sciences Lounge during the week of Nov. 18-22, repeating throughout the day. Native Visions, a blend of entertainment and education, will be held on Nov. 19 from 10 to 11:20 a.m. The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving at the SC Plaza Bistro will be held on Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. For a $5 donation or five canned goods, participants can enjoy an authentic lunch with recipes from the days of the pilgrims and learn what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. For more information, contact Kelley Pfeiffer at 636-922-8544 or email@example.com.
- St. Louis Public Library presents Travelling Teens: Eleventh Stop: Native American Heritage Month for grades 6-12 in the First Floor Teen Lounge on Nov. 20 from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis. For more information, call 314-241-2288.
- The State Historical Society of Missouri houses resources for those interested in Native American history. Collections may be accessed at the SHSMO Research Centers in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla, Springfield, and St. Louis.
- Several Missouri State Parks preserve sites of historic importance related to Native American cultures, including Towosahgy State Historic Site in East Prairie, where visitors can view earthen mounds built by Mississippian peoples living in Missouri between 1000 and 1400 C.E.; excavation sites at Iliniwek Village State Historic Site in modern-day Wayland, where 8,000 Indians of the Illinois tribe once thrived; and Trail of Tears State Park, in Jackson, where, in 1838 and 1839, thousands of Cherokee peoples crossed the Mississippi River in a forced migration from their native lands to the then newly-created Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.