November is Native American Heritage Month, in which we get to recognize and honor the rich and diverse cultures, histories, and contributions of the indigenous peoples of the United States. We not only acknowledge the resilience and strength of indigenous peoples but also work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society that respects and values the cultural diversity that has shaped the nation’s identity. Hear what our students have to say about their experience as Native Americans:
Ya’at’eeh, Hello my name is Wylee Matine. I am full Navajo and come from a small reservation west of Albuquerque. I currently attend the Native American Community Academy (NACA), which has given me the opportunity to learn about my culture through an academic setting. In the past, academic settings were used to take us out of our traditional ways, but NACA has used this academic setting to provide indigenous learning to students of Native American descent. To me, Native American Heritage Month is something that gives us the opportunity to represent our cultures, express who we are as indigenous people, and be acknowledged by others. Growing up, I’ve been exposed and built a strong connection to my family’s traditional practices. This connection allowed me to understand my culture and learn what otherwise may have been lost many years ago. Not only is Native American Heritage Month about acknowledging indigenous people, but it’s also about expressing our history and all the problems we faced as Indigenous people. Growing up, I wasn’t proud of my culture and where I came from, but attending NACA I am proud being Native and proud of my tradition that’s been taught to me from generations before. With Native American Heritage Month, I hope others learn about my culture and allow us to represent who we are as Indigenous people.
Ya’at’eeh Emily yinishye, hello my name is Emily Salt and this is my experience and view on my heritage. Growing up, I wasn’t really fazed by my culture and traditions—it felt so common. As I grew up, I was able to see how little Native people are actually known even in history. We’re still seen as historic, or we get mistaken for other ethnicities. I’ve always been in touch with my traditions and I think that’s why I’ve never really struggled with my identity, but I still feel a slight discomfort when I leave to bigger cities. I feel like I have to prepare myself for the questions I’d get about my features or where I come from, only for them to try and correct me saying I was wrong. Or just the lack of knowledge people have about people like me, in other reigns where we’re not as prominent. Having a month to make us feel appreciated is very gratifying, to show that we’re still around and aren’t just present as we are in books but people. Just have different traditions and ways of teaching that are beautiful. When this month comes around indigenous people are able to spotlight their talents such as traditional dances, arts, songs, and so much more. It allows us to bring awareness to the many facets of traditions we have in the spectrum of indigenous people everywhere. Ahe’hee, thank you!