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Background Image woman dancing at a powwow

Keeping Tradition Alive: Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, otherwise known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.  It’s a month to celebrate the contributions of native peoples to the United States and honor the rich cultural heritage of indigenous tribes. 

COVID-19 may have changed the celebrations in 2020, but there are still ways you can explore a few compelling stories through podcasts, poetry, food, and history.

The Native American VotePresident Coolidge and Native American leaders at White House

President Calvin Coolidge and Native American leaders, 1925. 

Listen to a short history of the Native American effort to claim the right to vote, told by Erin Raux, curator of the Mid-America All-Indian Museum in Wichita.  As Raux explains, though indigenous communities were truly the first Americans, most indigenous people were not recognized as citizens of the United States until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, and many states continued to deny Indigenous American citizens the chance to vote until well into the 1930s. Learn more about how Native communities fought and continue to fight for the right to vote by listening to Raux's Humanities Hotline story.

Listen: Native American Voting Rights 

“Red Talks” Podcast and Video Series

Man interview woman on Zoom

Freddy Gipp (right) interviews powwow coordinator Larissa No Braid on "Red Talks."

As a result of COVID-19, Freddy Gipp, CEO and founder of Lead Horse LLC and an enrolled member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, has transformed the annual Young Professionals Powwow that he has been holding in Lawrence for the past three years, into a video and podcast series.  “Red Talks” features leaders from the Midwest community of indigenous professionals sharing stories about how they are carrying their tribes’ cultural traditions and values forward—whether that’s by bringing indigenous art and culture to a larger public as Kenneth Shirley, CEO of Indigenous Enterprises, does or by keeping the indigenous tradition of sustainable butchering and cooking alive, as Lee Meisel does at his Lawrence restaurant, Leeway Franks.

Watch the "Red Talks" series

“We were forced to become adaptive during this ‘uncertain time,’” Gipp shared in an interview with Humanities Kansas Associate Director Tracy Quillin. “We knew that some aspects of our powwow could still be done. […] The podcasts were something that we always wanted to do, and it was one of those situations where it was the ‘right place at the right time.’” 

Explore “Red Talks” with your family by watching or listening to an episode of your choice and considering these questions:

  1. How is the indigenous community bringing tribal traditions and values into the American workplace?  
  2. In what ways does the indigenous perspective on work, entrepreneurship, and community partnerships strengthen the Midwestern economy? 
  3. Why are alternative media outlets, like Gipp’s “Red Talks,” important for marginalized communities?  How do independent media outlets act as a corrective to the narratives espoused by mainstream media?

The Week of Indigenous Eatingclose up photo of corn

Round out your celebrations of Indigenous heritage by participating in the “Week of Indigenous Eating,” hosted by Devon Mihesuah, Cora Lee Beers Price Professor of the Humanities at the University of Kansas.  In its 10th year, the “Week of Indigenous Eating” provides a chance to explore indigenous recipes as well as foodstuffs indigenous to the Northern hemisphere with daily recipes posted by Mihesuah and support from participants around the globe. This year, the “Week of Indigenous Eating” will take place from November 22nd to the 29th, and you can follow along here with ideas for recipes like Blue Corn Pancakes.  You can also hear Mihesuah talk about indigenous cooking and eating by calling the Humanities Kansas Hotline, a free hotline for bite-sized humanities stories at the dial of a telephone, at 1-888-416-2018 between November 16-30, 2020. 

Living People, Living Words

Explore Living People, Living Words, a map of First Peoples Poetry by Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate, on the Library of Congress website. 

We may be stuck inside this November, but there is so much to celebrate!  Stay safe and stay grateful this fall for all the rich cultural heritage indigenous to the United States. 

Photo Credit: Laryn Oakes is a champion fancy shawl dancer who participated in the 2018 Young Professionals Powwow in Lawrence. Photo courtesy of Lead Horse LLC.



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