For generations, Native Americans have marked cycles of the moon to signify certain times of the year. In August, we welcome the Sturgeon Moon – also known as the Green Corn Moon, the Red Moon and the Grain Moon. The full Sturgeon Moon (occurring on Aug. 15 this year) marks the time for noted ease in catching fish in Great Lakes area. Ironically, this year’s Sturgeon Moon is in the sign of Pisces, which is often symbolized by two fish.
The legend of the moon varies across tribes; however, something all tribes seem to have in common is the use of a lunar calendar. Tribal winter counts were done by using the lunar calendar to record notable events throughout the year — and each moon signified something different for each tribe that named it.
One of the Lakota names for the moon is ‘Hanhepi Win’ (meaning Night Woman). And according to legend, ‘Nunda’ is the Cherokee name for both the sun and the moon. Some say the sun and moon are related as brother and sister; others say they are lovers forced to chase each other back and forth across the sky, while some still say they are simply balls thrown into the sky after a great game.
Traditional full-moon names can also signify the harvest time of various crops for indigenous people in America and around the world. August, for example, is seen as the time to harvest barley, corn, fruit, and other grains.
The significance of a moon can also vary widely depending on geography and season, which may be confusing for those who did not name the moons and may even have contributed to the introduction of standardized timekeeping, such as the Gregorian calendar. Still, much of the history for these cultures around the world is marked based on the names of the moons by which they lived.
August 14 is National Navajo Code Talkers Day. Established by President Reagan in 1982, this day recognizes the service of the Navajo Code Talkers and their vital contributions during World War II (WWII). The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers of the 382nd Platoon, USMC have passed, but today we remember them and preserve the honor they brought to themselves, their people and their country.
The original Native American Code Talkers served the US Army during World War I (WWI) and included Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi and Cherokee veterans. In the early 1940’s, WWI veteran Philip Johnston recalled the value of these code talkers and their languages and suggested the U.S. Marines use a similar communications strategy in WWII. After previewing the language, the Marines recruited the entire 382nd Platoon to develop and memorize the Navajo-coded language, which became one of many Type-One codes that translated English to construct a coded message.
Native Americans hold the distinction of the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the U.S., something instilled in us as warriors from our not-so-old ways. In times of war, many Native Americans were drafted, but many also volunteered, and some even lied about their age – some as young as 15 – in order to be able to serve.
By the end of WWI, more than 25 percent of the Native American male population was active in the military, and their contributions are credited for many key victories in the war. By WWII, an estimated 44,000 Native Americans served their country, and more than 400 of them were Code Talkers.
The Navajo Code Talkers contributed significantly to the WWII war effort and were a major resource in the capture of Iwo Jima island from the Japanese. However, for years, many Americans did not know about the Code Talkers’ critical contributions. It wasn’t until 1968 that the Navajo Code Talker operation was declassified.
Today, there are few Code Talkers left to thank in person, but we will always remember the security they brought us. We appreciate their service and cultures, knowing our world could have been much different if not for the sacrifices they made. To those left, we thank you. To those gone, we remain grateful and know you still watch from afar.
This month marks the 339th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1690 — an uprising of the Pueblo Indians against Spanish colonizers in present-day Santa Fe that marked a historic win for indigenous human rights and independence. Today, we recognize these indigenous ancestors as we share the history and outcome of this monumental point in history.
When the Spaniards arrived in present-day New Mexico in the 1500’s, the Pueblo people were subjected to successive waves of soldiers, missionaries and settlers who sought to destroy the pueblo way of life. In the years to follow, several violent confrontations severed the relationship between the Spaniards and the Pueblos, including the Tiguex War of 1540 and the Acoma Massacre of 1598.
The first permanent colonial settlement was established after the Acoma Massacre. Approximately 40,000 Pueblo Indians inhabiting the region were forced to assimilate, and those who did not oblige were often tried in Spanish courts and condemned to death, severe punishments, and slavery. They were also forced to provide tribute to colonists in the form of labor and restrictions to their fertile farmlands.
With colonization also came the establishment of theocracies by Franciscan priests in many of the Pueblo villages. During this time, more than 7,000 Pueblo Indians were baptized into Catholicism and their traditional Indian manifestations and customs were outlawed.
Unfortunately, drought swept the region in the late 1600’s, leading to increased frustration by Spanish settlers who raided the Pueblos’ food supplies and other resources to maintain order of their colony. Conflicts escalated, and the Spaniards arrested several dozen Pueblo medicine men, accusing them of practicing sorcery and sentencing them to death. Several prisoners were released once the Pueblo leaders heard this news and intervened, including Pope, a Tewa medicine man who helped shift the fate of the Pueblo peoples.
On Aug. 10, 1680, Pope carried out his long-awaited plan to revolt against the Spaniards, with support from the Northern Pueblos, the Pecos Pueblos, and the Zuni and Hopi peoples who resided in nearby lands. Over the next few days, the Puebloans pillaged the Spanish settlements and removed 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico. By September, Spanish settlements ceased to exist in the state and the remaining Spaniards were escorted to El Paso.
From that point forward, the Puebloans in New Mexico self-governed their tribes and worked to re-establish some of their previous ancestral traditions. While drought continued to destroy Puebloan crops, they remained united in working together to prevent the return of the Spanish for the next two years. However, that period of independence, a defining moment of freedom and rebirth of their traditions, was short-lived, and the Spaniards eventually re-gained control of the area as part of a peaceful agreement in 1692. Although the influence of the Spanish can still be seen today, 19 pueblos are now federally recognized as sovereign nations.
Throughout the nation, Native Americans are continuing to receive recognition and attain success in classrooms, art exhibits, social policies and more. Please enjoy a compilation of our favorite Native American news headlines from the month of July. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.
Exhibit shares history of Native American veterans via The Midland Reporter-Telegram
- “A traveling Smithsonian exhibit about the history of Native Americans in the U.S. military is on display at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in eastern Nebraska. ‘Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces’ tells the story of the American Indian and Alaska Native men and women who served the country in every major U.S. military encounter since the Revolutionary War. ‘Patriot Nations’ will be on display through Sept. 2 in the Harold W. Andersen Visitor Center, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Fort Atkinson sits on the east side of Fort Calhoun, which is situated 15 miles north of Omaha. A park entry permit is required for all vehicles and can be purchased at the park.
Molly of Denali brings representation of Alaskan Natives to the mainstream via Chicago Tribune
- “The theme song is catchy, and the landscapes are different than those found in the Great Lakes and lessons about indigenous [peoples] are those that have been historically ignored. Those are the things that come to mind having watched an episode of WTTW’s new animated show ‘Molly of Denali.’ Set in Alaska, the show is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature an Alaskan Native American lead character, according to Lisa Tipton, senior director of programming at WTTW-Ch. 11, Chicago’s PBS affiliate. Each episode features Molly and her friends Tooey and Trini on their adventures, from helping her grandfather reconnect with his musical side to finding out the Native names of community members and recording them for the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska.”
In North Carolina, Native Americans Take Control of Their Health Care via U.S. News & World Report
- “Light pours through large windows and glass ceilings of the Cherokee Indian Hospital onto a fireplace, a waterfall and murals. Rattlesnake Mountain, which the Cherokee elders say holds ancient healing powers, is visible from most angles. The hospital’s motto — ‘Ni hi tsa tse li’ or ‘It belongs to you’ — is written in Cherokee syllabary on the wall at the main entrance. ‘It doesn’t look like a hospital, and it doesn’t feel like a hospital,’ Kristy Nations said on a recent visit to pick up medications at the pharmacy. ‘It actually feels good to be here.’”
- “The Heard Museum has wrapped up its second annual Teacher Institute program, which gives Arizona educators a better understanding of American Indian history, culture and art. The free three-day workshop in late June aimed to provide new classroom resources and tools to about 20 K-12 teachers through presentations, artist demonstrations, gallery tours and more. One of those demonstrations focused on weaving, a tradition that runs deep in many tribes, including the Navajo. Filmmaker and weaver Velma Kee Craig was among the presenters at the Heard. She wants to share the weaving tradition of her Navajo culture with others.”
As we approach a new school year, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) knows that a successful school year begins with feeling prepared. This year, we hope to equip more than 20,000 students with the essentials they need to feel confident in the classroom, as part of our annual Backpack Drive.
The Backpack Drive is supported by PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program. In 2018, AIEF provided thousands of students with backpacks, notebooks, pencils and other items, thanks to the support of our donors. Unfortunately, approximately 35 percent of Native American children live in poverty so these basic supplies that we take for granted are often viewed as luxuries in reservation communities with scarce jobs, limited shopping and family budgets that are stretched all year.
In addition to low incomes and limited access to basic supplies, many Native American students face systemic barriers to attaining a good education in underfunded and underperforming schools with high turnover and disrepair, such as the schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Yet another social inequity Native American students grapple with every day, this contributes to Native American students having the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates of any ethnicity in the U.S. PWNA is committed to providing essential materials to Native students to ensure they are ready to tackle learning in the classroom, regardless of the other barriers they may be facing.
School supplies are critical to the success of every student, and many children return to school without supplies. In addition, delivering these items is oftentimes challenging, especially for reservations located in remote, geographically isolated areas across rough terrain. The average fuel cost for delivering supplies to a single school on the reservations PWNA serves is approximately $135.
Our annual Backpack Drive is under way and our hope is that, through the support of caring people like you, we can receive enough donations to get these school supplies to our reservation school partners in time for back to school. With your help, we can relieve some of the financial stress facing families and ensure Native American students are prepared for the new school year.
PWNA’s American Indian Education Fund has been supporting schools and students across the Northern Plains and Southwest for decades. The importance of a pen and paper in the classroom has not lost its significance to those who’ve received school supplies from PWNA over the years and the generational appreciation is evident.
Amanda, a certified K-12 school counselor on the Pine Ridge Reservation, knows firsthand that providing school supplies to students not only reduces stress for her students’ families but also for teaching staff. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 94 percent of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms and, on average, a teacher will spend approximately $479. This is a hefty investment when you consider a teacher’s low-paying salary.
“We have some students and families who may be able to afford to buy new school supplies but for those who enter the classroom empty-handed, PWNA really helps to alleviate the stress and anxiety,” said Amanda. “Many teachers and staff try to help as much as possible by donating new supplies, so PWNA helps teachers too.”
For Heather, a teacher on the Cheyenne River Reservation, school supplies from PWNA means less money out of her pocket for her students. “When our junior high school ran out of lined paper, I gathered up the paper left over from the [PWNA] distributions for use through the end of the year – know those donations did not go to waste,” said Heather.
Oftentimes, those same students who are worried about coming to school without the essentials are likely just as worried about food or basic utilities at home. So, while PWNA’s school supplies offer financial assistance, they also impact overall motivation, participation and learning in the classroom.
“As a school counselor, I try to store extra supplies in my office throughout the year so that when students need something, they know they have a place – and space – to come to without having to worry,” said Amanda.
Students like Jack, who began his education at a small elementary school in the northwestern corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation and went on to graduate from Red Cloud High School, continue on to college, in his case to Northern State University. Jack reflected on the challenges of accessing basic supplies, such as paper and pencils, and recalls the time that school supplies were provided to him and other students in elementary school through PWNA and other donors. “Being equipped with the right supplies helped us keep up with notes, which in turn helped with passing our exams and quizzes,” said Jack.
Despite the struggles, Jack remembers being part of the welcoming and inclusive learning environment his school and its staff created during his early learning years. Today, Jack’s parents help him with supplies to pursue a business degree and, through a Department of Education program at his college, students can borrow laptops for taking notes at lectures and doing online homework.
Whether students are continuing on to college, many of them with continued assistance from PWNA, or completing their K-12 education, basic school supplies are critical tools for learning in the classroom and help support Native futures.
When I was younger, I had this green dream catcher that I’d hang right above my bed any time my family moved. My father always told me, “Don’t let it fall, it’ll make all the bad dreams fall out!” So, I always made sure to handle it with care. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood a dream catcher isn’t necessarily just for catching our dreams, but also as a barrier for any negative thoughts.
The origin of dream catchers is hard to pinpoint, but they appear likely related to the history of two cultures: the Ojibwe and the Lakota. These are two tribes with similar history and both of their cultures have origin stories based upon the web of a spider. In Lakota culture, Iktomi gave the idea of making dream catchers to a man in a vision, while in Ojibwe culture, it may have come from Asibaikaashi (Spider Woman). In both cultures, dream catchers protect their owners by capturing negative energy in the web and allowing good energy to pass through.
Today, dream catchers are as synonymous with Native American culture as fry bread, but the reality is that their popularity only increased among Indigenous tribes as trade between tribal and western communities became more prevalent. Even though dream catchers aren’t a part of most tribes’ histories, they were quickly popularized because they represent a symbol that can be widely understood by all people.
This brings up the topic of “misappropriation,” which comes from a lack of understanding and respect of a culture or its traditions, and poses a question – are some tribes misappropriating dream catchers if they didn’t originate in their culture? And what about for nontribal individuals who also use them?
In the case of dream catchers, there was appropriation long ago. Yet – in my view – in a good way for those who took the time to understand the significance and intended use of the dream catcher and adhered to that.
Native American tribal members have a unique citizenship status – classified as both citizens of the U.S. and of their sovereign tribal nation. And currently, there are 573 federally recognized tribes (including bands, pueblos, communities and Native villages) with formal nation-to-nation relationships with the U.S. government – 229 of those are located in Alaska while the remaining are spread across 35 other U.S. states.
Tribal sovereignty is a political status and a means by which tribal nations seek to create thriving economies and improve life for their members, as well as others in nearby communities. Tribal citizens elect their tribal leaders to office with hopes of establishing strong leadership who can improve the quality of life for all members of the tribe. Economic development, job creation and public safety are some of the main priorities tribal leaders and communities are addressing today.
In the late 1800’s, the U.S. government implemented a policy that forced tribal members to assimilate under the Allotment Act of 1887. This undermined tribal sovereignty and destroyed land bases by allotting tribal land to individual members — resulting in the loss of 86 million acres of tribal homelands. Even now, tribes continue to work on rebuilding their economies, exercising their sovereign rights to control their destinies and restore their ancestral lands. All these efforts are integral parts of building sustainable prosperity for today’s world.
Unfortunately, Indian reservations weren’t set up with a tribe’s prosperity in mind, nor were they meant to allow tribes to exercise their “sovereign” rights to manage their own affairs as they have done since time immemorial. Reservations were essentially established concentration camps – set up to remove and relocate Indians to non-Indian communities, while taking their lands, resources and means to prosper.
In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), which laid the foundation for restoring tribal sovereignty. The IRA ended a previously destructive policy by setting forth a process that would restore and protect tribal homelands in order to provide tribal nations with tools to succeed as self-governing bodies. Through the IRA process, tribal nations are better able to deliver essential government services such as public education, health facilities, elder and veteran centers, housing, and justice facilities.
Today, it’s important to recognize that as tribal nations exercise their rights to self-govern and strengthen their economies, their sovereignty is also benefiting local nontribal communities, businesses and citizens. In fact, depending on the tribe, leakage of tribal money to nontribal economies ranges as high as $.90 of every tribal dollar earned.
For example, the Navajo Nation, “the largest tribal nation in the country with 375,804 members and 162,208 members residing on the reservation” and a land base of about 17 million acres spanning more than 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported $.53 of every tribal dollar leaks out to nearby nontribal economies. Another example is Frontier Village operated by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe in Prescott, Arizona, with 60 retail establishments and more than 2,500 employees from the surrounding communities.
Thriving tribal economies have a significant impact on local nontribal communities and we hope to continue championing their efforts to develop long-lasting, self-sustaining communities.
Native Americans are continuing to receive recognition across the nation for their activism, artistry and more, and we’re sharing some of our favorite headlines from the month of June. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest headlines all year long.
Arizona’s first Native American Day is recognized June 2 via AZ Central
- “Arizona’s first state-recognized Native American Day occurred Sunday, commemorating the date — June 2 — when then President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924. That act granted United States citizenship to any Native American born within the country. The day’s recognition came via the passage last year of Senate Bill 1235, introduced by Navajo state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock. It was was signed into law last April by Gov. Doug Ducey. Ducey posted about the day on Twitter Sunday. ‘Today, Arizona recognizes and celebrates the rich contributions and history of the Native American people in our state,’ Ducey wrote.”
- “Frank LaMere, a Native American activist who fought for a variety of causes and crusaded to close beer stores near a dry South Dakota Indian reservation, has died. He was 69. LaMere’s daughter, Jennifer LaMere, said her father died Sunday at an Omaha hospital. LaMere, who was a Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska member, worked for decades to shutter the four stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, that sold millions of cans of beer near the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Regulators closed the stores in 2017. LaMere also spoke out against the proposed Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.”
- “If you’re in the United States or Canada, you may have seen the intricately designed Google Doodle above. It celebrates the Jingle Dress Dance performed by Native American women. The dance, which originated with the Ojibwe tribe, serves to ‘affirm the power of Native American women,’ Google notes in an explanation of the doodle. The doodle was designed by Ojibwe artist Joshua Mangeship Pawis-Steckley.’When I heard the Doodle was about the Jingle Dress Dance, I was eager to get started,’ he told Google. ‘Watching the dancers at pow wow is one of my favorite things to do.’”
New Mexico mural focuses on missing Native American women via The Salt Lake Tribune
- “A new mural in southern New Mexico seeks to honor missing and slain Native Americans amid a nationwide push to bring more attention to the issue. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports artist Sebastian ‘Vela’ Velazquez recently erected the mural in Las Cruces in conjunction with the city’s eighth annual ‘Illegal’ graffiti art show. The work is part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the Cruces Creatives building. In the mural, a Native American woman stands in front with her fist raised. She’s screaming and the words below say: ‘NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!’”
- “Walk into most museums and there might be something missing on the wall labels beside Native American artworks – an Apache dress from the 19th century might just read: ‘Title, year, materials.’ What’s missing? The artist’s name. Though many of the artists’ names were not recorded, and will forever be anonymous, many that have been recorded are now being recognized as never before. Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is the first ever museum retrospective of Native American and Canadian female artists. It opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and until 18 August, over 115 artists from 50 Native communities are being given the credit they deserve.”
We often don’t realize how diverse Native tribes are – including their cultural traditions, differences in governance, and distinct histories over time. Today, we’re taking a look at the history of the Hopi people — known as “the Peaceful Ones.”
Historically, the Hopituh Shinumu (traditional name of the Hopi people) were well regarded as one of the most settled tribes in the Four Corners region. Hopi villages such as Old Oraibi are among the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in what is now the U.S. Their well-developed trade networks extended throughout the southern regions of the U.S. and into Mexico.
Hopi was also well regarded as one of the most developed social cultures, both matriarchal and matrilineal. Unlike some tribes, women determined social status and clan lines of future generations (meaning the children of a marriage are members of the wife’s clan). Their rich spiritual culture was based on generosity, with the well-being of the children and community among their highest priorities.
Beginning in the 1500’s, multiple recorded meetings showed attempts by Spanish Crusaders to oppress the Hopi and convert them to Christianity. Spanish and American politics also led to the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo in 1848, in which the U.S. won jurisdiction of the region and Manifest Destiny ensued. These scenarios eventually led the Peaceful Ones to fight for their culture in a series of battles that extended into the 1800s. But, with colonizers coming to the West and claiming Hopi lands for settlement, in 1882 the Hopi were relocated onto the reservation where they live today.
Like other Native Americans, the Hopi people were influenced by missionary work and Christianity, both before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and in boarding schools on the reservation. Many Hopi accepted Christianity, but the majority also retained their traditional spiritual practices.
After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Hopi had more freedom of self-governance and were quick to establish a tribal council and write their Constitution with representatives from each village “to provide a way of working together for peace and agreement between villages and of preserving the things of Hopi Life.”
Although the Hopi have lost about 90 percent of their original reservation land, they have close to 20,000 enrolled tribal members today. Hopi culture and spiritual practices are vibrant. The people still practice some of their oldest dances and many still speak their Native language. The Hopituh Shinumu stand as a beacon to show us not all Indigenous cultures were lost. Their closely held virtues of generosity, commitment, and adaptation have helped them weather history, keep their culture alive and stand as a modern tribe today.