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Posts Tagged ‘Native American Heritage Month’

It’s Native American Heritage Month: Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota.

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15th, 2016. (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

It is Native American Heritage Month.

What does this mean? How do we commemorate? I’ve seen signs in schools announcing this yearly celebration, and I’ve perused displays in libraries. I’ve noted local museums’ native-themed exhibits. Classrooms may spend time learning about the history of Native Americans. Young students may take part in creating a native-themed craft; older students may be tasked with researching an eminent Native American or the history of a Native American tribe. Adults may seek out drum circles, powwows, native chanting experiences, and herbal medicine discussions.

This year, perhaps above all else, we can honor Native American Heritage Month by learning about and discussing the current protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

The tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, at the center of this controversy, came together at Standing Rock to oppose the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would cut across the land of the Standing Rock Sioux and possibly threaten their water supply. Other Native American tribes and many of non-native descent joined in the protests. Large-scale demonstrations began a few months ago, in August, when activists blocked the pipeline’s construction sites at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The protests have grown and have become increasingly violent. But the opposition remains strong.  In a September press release, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman David Archambault II stated that the pipeline will “destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.”

The Dakota Access pipeline, approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, would tap into the Bakken Formation, an oil deposit that spans five U.S. states and into Canada. It could provide more than 7 billion barrels of oil to the United States, reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil. Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based natural gas and propane company, claims that the pipeline would help the states that are impacted, providing up to 12,000 construction jobs and bringing more than $150 million in revenue.

As Americans, it is important that we acknowledge the events and people at Standing Rock. As researchers, teachers, and students, it is also important that we explore both sides of the issue. SIRS Knowledge Source and its Leading Issues feature, which includes such topics as Keystone Pipeline and Indigenous Peoples, explores the controversy.

For further research…

Check out this timeline of events prior to and since the first physical collision of interests in August.

Get an overview of the viewpoints of proponents and opponents.

Consider the implications of those who are funding the pipeline.

Read about the history the land of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Visit SIRS Knowledge Source’s and SIRS Discoverer’s Native American Heritage Month’s Spotlight features.

Remembering the Trail of Tears

By Wesley Fryer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA (Cherokee Heritage Museum) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The heritage of Native Americans is brimming with spirituality, art, innovation, and communion with nature.

Many tribes populated North America, living in harmony with the land and its offerings. We honor the beauty and spirit of native peoples, and their many contributions, each November as we celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

But Native American history during the past few centuries is rife with violence, sadness, and desolation. It is important that we learn about the many difficult events of the past while honoring what was lost—and taken—from the people who lived on this land for centuries before Europeans arrived.

Let’s look at one devastating piece of history: The Trail of Tears.

In 1829, lots of gold was found in Georgia mines, bringing the gold rush to that area and immensely increasing its value to land speculators. One year later, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. It was a title quite befitting, as it laid out the government’s intentions of removing Native Americans from their homelands. The act authorized the president, who was Andrew Jackson at that time, to negotiate with tribes and force them west.

Unfortunately for the Cherokee, the land in Georgia that was home to the gold rush was also home to their tribe. They lived in communities of huts and log-cabin homes that they built on the land. They grew corn, squash, and other crops. They traded goods and services and had created a formal system of writing.

In other words, the Cherokee were rooted to this land and did not want to leave.

Eight years after the signing of the Indian Removal Act, soldiers were sent to forcibly remove the Cherokee from the land. It was not a benevolent outcome: homes were destroyed, possessions were stolen, and tribe members were arrested. Some died in makeshift “jails” and military outposts. The devastating end to the attack was the forced move of the Cherokee from their land to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee were sent in separate groups to walk 900 miles west to their new home. The journey was not an easy one. They were confronted with difficult weather, rivers to cross, and mountains to traverse. Little food was available in the inhospitable conditions. Sickness and starvation turned to death and despair on this trail to Oklahoma…on this Trail of Tears.

Of the nearly 21,000 Cherokee who left Georgia and walked the Trail of Tears, only 16,000 survived. They banded together in their new land and created the Cherokee Nation. About 1,000 Cherokee escaped the forced removal and formed the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains.

Here at ProQuest, we honor Native Americans and their cultures and histories each November during Native American Heritage Month. Articles, websites, and photographs profile Native Americans and their tribes, or provide insight into contemporary and historical Native American issues and events, in this month’s SKS and Discoverer Spotlights of the Month.