What Being American Indian Means to Me: In Recognition of Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month and November 29, 2013 is Native American Heritage Day. What does this mean to me? I am American Indian of Navajo descent. I was raised on the Navajo Nation all my life. Since I grew up on the Navajo Nation I thought the world was like me. I was taught in school that I am American and I accepted that. I was taught at home to be a good and capable person.
I had inadequate preparation in our public school so I never contemplated going off to college. My mother on the other hand had other dreams for me. She filled out my paperwork to attend the local community college. It was there that I began to consider going away to attend University, and of course, mother helped me to apply. Fortunately, I was able to graduate from the University with dual degrees in the discipline of human services. Today I am using the educational skills I acquired to help create better opportunities for Older Indians.
I know that many America Indian people gave up land, resources, language, culture and complete sovereignty in the name of the English colonization westward. Many atrocities were committed against American Indian People in the taking of the land and cultural livelihood.
It still bothers my soul, that in many circumstances “Americans” know very little about the history and significant role the first Americans played in the creation of this nation — our ancestors opened the door to the establishment of the United States of America. It is from the first people that indigenous healing herbs, plants, animals, and political structure have effectively influenced the United States and other countries today.
I believe the United States is a great nation. I also believe that American Indians are a great people. It is strange how American Indians are often viewed by society as “uncivilized or supernatural.” I recall a time that I met a young lady at a leadership conference in D.C. She was surprised to discover that I was American Indian. In her excitement she clamored from her mouth — “Wow, it’s like meeting a unicorn!”
I am proud to be born in America. I am proud to come from a resilient, brilliant, strong nation of Indian people. I also wish that there was a greater connection and cooperation between Indian Governments, State Governments and the Federal Government. The policies and boundaries that are artificially erected due to a lack of understanding — separate our intent to live together in prosperity.
November is Native American Heritage Month. Read and learn about other cultures this month. Talk to a person that is different from you and make a new friend. Know the true history of America — good and bad. Acknowledge that every race and culture throughout this nation is what makes up the United States of America – together we are a great Nation.
Randella Bluehouse is the Executive Director of the National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (NICOA). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.