What Native American Heritage Month means to us

Why is Native America Heritage Month important to you?

Response by Marcus Perez:  NWTC Talent Strategy Director, Menomonee Nation

Perez-Marcus.jpegI don’t recall knowing that Native American Heritage Month was a thing until I was in the Army and a leader asked me to share some information about my tribe as I was the only Native in our battalion. I thought that was strange, but realized I hadn’t encountered many other Natives in my time in the Army and no one seemed to know much about us. It had always been treated like a novelty that I was Native in the Army and I was always proud to inform people that my tribe had “the biggest reservation East of the Mississippi (which is also the SMALLEST county in Wisconsin)”, or something about our heritage or our persistence. I guess that made me realize we ought to use the platform provided to share our story because there just aren’t enough people who know enough about us.

Why is it important for our community to celebrate Native America Heritage?

Response by Bob VanSchyndel:  NWTC Faculty Development Consultant, Oneida Nation

VanSchyndel-Robert.jpegOne important intention of Native American Heritage month, like other months that honor heritage, is to challenge our perspective about the historical narrative and our current understanding of a people group. The nudge to seek those perspectives is a honoring practice and works to rebate an understanding that more honestly reflects the experience of all those who occupy the continent. This is especially important for First Nations people whose experience is often overlooked or told from others’ perspective. To that point, Native American Heritage month holds a timely position given the American traditions to honor Columbus or the complicated Thanksgiving story. 

Although the formal pause of a heritage month is a great initial nudge, I hope the practice of critiquing conceptions and honoring the sovereignty of First Nations in the contemporary American culture can become a consistent habit.

What cultural practices and activities are most important to you?

Response by Mae Cornelius: NWTC Foundation Assistant, Oneida Nation
Cornelius-Mae.jpegTo pinpoint a practice or activity is difficult because they are all important but one that stands out to me would be the storytelling. Our stories explain why things are done the way they are and offer guidance in all aspects of life. For instance, the story of the corn husk doll and why she has no face is to remind us that no person is better than the next and to believe so would bring a great punishment. There are stories that tell how to parent, how to treat others and how our ceremonies came to be. I loved listening to the stories growing up and now tell them to my children. 
Another of the activities that I feel is important is singing and dancing. There are songs that are used for ceremonies, healing, and songs that are used socially. There are different types of dances that go with each type of song. One thing that was traded over the years was songs and dances. I am Oneida, our people are historically from the New York area yet we have a social dance called the Alligator dance that originally came from trading with southern tribes. This dance was always one of my favorites to do at socials

Where can I learn more about Native American Heritage?

  • Connect with the Intertribal Employee Involvement Group on campus to meet faculty, staff, and students;
  • Read more about Native American Heritage Month 

NWTC is built on traditional tribal lands. Read more in NWTC's Land Acknowledgment