November 3, 2017
It's National Native American Heritage Month: Let's Celebrate!
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.
The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.
In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.
8-Year-Old working on his third movie
Colton Willier is a writer, director and animator who has finished work on his second stop-motion animated film.
And the Cree and Blackfoot First Nations artist is only eight years old.
Shirtnami is a two-minute, cut-out animation film about a pile of T-shirts fresh from the washer that take over a town, only to be conquered by Skateboarding Pants, characters from the youngster's first film.
Skateboarding Pants was released in 2016 and featured at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto last year where he was the youngest filmmaker ever to show at the festival.
However, the youngster is more interested in creating his films than he is in attending film festivals, says his proud mother Amy Willier, who helped edit and animate Shirtnami.
"Colton doesn't want to go to anymore film fests," she laughed. "When you're eight years old and your film is screened with a bunch of others — some are weird or gory or boring — it's hard to sit through them all. "
Colton makes animated movies every chance he gets using Lego, clay, drawings or toys, his mom says. He's always creating.
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For Inuit, Education Can Mean Choosing Between Cultures
Patricia Deveaux was always told she could be anything she wanted to be. When she graduated in June of this year, she won a Governor General’s Academic Medal for having the highest grades in her high-school class. Meanwhile, she had long since learned the ropes in the world of work, having talked her way into a job at a local hotel when she was 13.
“She was always the one I looked up to,” says her 16-year-old sister, Lissa.
Lissa was a good student too, but she lived for summers, when she could go camping and fishing. She wanted to stay forever in Nunavik, the far-north Inuit region of Quebec.
It was a given, however, that Patricia would leave. Only about a half-dozen students from her hometown of Kuujjuaq move on from high school to Quebec’s pre-university colleges (called CEGEPs) each year, and she “always couldn’t wait” to be one of them, she says. So she moved to Montreal in August. She flew through orientation testing with the highest grade of any Nunavik student this year.
It took just six weeks for her to change her mind. She quit her business program at John Abbott College and moved back to Kuujjuaq, reoccupying her old bedroom and her job at the local hotel. She entered a local trade school, studying accounting.
Pastor Fights to Restore New Jersey Tribes
Rev. Dr. J.R. Norwood bridges two cultures. As founding pastor he has served the Ujima Village Christian Church of Ewing, an independent, community based, Christian congregation, for 25 years.
At the same time he is minister to the Tribal Christian Prayer Circle Ministry of his tribe, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, which calls itself “a fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ who gather for prayer, biblical discussion, spiritual formation, and the sharing of the Lord’s Supper within a tribal cultural context.”
For Norwood, the two will come together in a program titled “Building Greater Understanding about Native American History: Sharing Truth, Expanding Knowledge, Creating Awareness."
Norwood notes that that all religions adapt and change some of their practices based on the larger cultural context, adding, “Sadly, for those cultures that were colonized, the ability to [interpret and celebrate the essentials of their faith] was suppressed.”
But that has hardly been the only problem Native Americans have faced in New Jersey. There have been issues around land ownership, expulsion and suppression of Native American identity.
Norwood is a tribal activist (an elected tribal councilman and first principal justice of the Tribal Supreme Court), a delegate to regional and national organizations and president of the economic development initiative Nanticoke-Lenape Tribal Enterprises.
As such, he has been dealing with the fact that New Jersey no longer recognizes the three Indian tribes within its boundaries, which means they are denied protections and benefits that would flow from that status. For example, they can be denied scholarships set aside for different racial groups.
Native American Artifacts Unearthered By Hurrican Irma
Hundreds of artifacts have been uncovered after Hurricane Irma uprooted trees on a Native American preserve on South Florida’s Marco Island in September.
The items once belonged to the extinct Calusa tribe, which lived on the island between 700 and 1200 AD. Archaeologists have long suspected that the area was rife with historical artifacts, but the excavation of public land is illegal and wouldn’t have been approved by the local government.
Now that the items have been unearthed naturally, archaeologists have removed 200 artifacts from the preserve, including tools, glass, pottery, and shells. The objects have been transported to the Marco Island Historical Museum, where they will be studied and prepared for display or loaned to other institutions.
But the excavation—natural or not—has raised concerns over the treatment of Native American relics, and some tribal representatives have voiced their discontent. Speaking to WGCU, Betty Osceola of the Miccosukee tribe in the nearby Everglades is concerned that the removal of any items from their natural resting place might upset the tribe’s ancestral spirits. “People who existed before should not have their artifacts taken and put in a museum and carted off anywhere,” she said.
Native Americans Left Out of Opioid Epidemic Talks
President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency last week, taking a step toward fulfilling a campaign promise to address this issue if elected to the White House.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” he said in a White House speech, where he was joined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), chairman of a presidential commission on combating the crisis. “It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.”
Some of the loudest critiques about how the president is responding to the opioid epidemic — which many associate with white, rural voters — come from those mindful of how differently presidents handled drug epidemics in the past.
Lost in the debate about black Americans in inner cities vs. white rural Americans is one demographic group that has been profoundly affected by the crisis: Native Americans living on reservations.
Although many conversations about people of color and drugs focus on black and Latino Americans, Native Americans fare the worst of all minority groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.