The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center would like to recognize all the diverse Native American cultures throughout this country, to honor their many freedom heroes, and to educate our guests about their rich history.
November is National Native American Heritage Month, also known as National American Indian Heritage Month. Although Congress designated this month in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush, in reality it was the persistent work of indigenous people starting in the early 20th century that inspired Congress to officially honor Native Americans in November. Individuals like Dr. Arthur C. Parker (Seneca), Rev. Sherman Coolidge (Arapahoe) and Red Fox James (Blackfoot) are just a few examples of native people who campaigned to educate all Americans about the value and contributions of Indigenous cultures.
We at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center recognize their past and present, their hardships and sacrifices, their perseverance and resiliency, their culture and wisdom, their devotion and kinship, and their physical and spiritual connection to this land. We see you and we hear you.
One of the best ways we as Americans can recognize America’s first people is to acknowledge their traditional land. The following statement comes from the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition.
“As a step toward honoring the truth and achieving healing and reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples who were affected most by the Doctrine of Discovery and broken treaties, we acknowledge the traditional Shawnee and Myaamia lands we now stand on, and on which the city of Cincinnati was built.”
We also want to honor all of our Native American freedom heroes, past and present. We honor Wahunsenacawh (Powhatan), Tecumseh (Shawnee) and Tatanka-yotanka (Hunkpapa Lakota), who fought bravely to protect their people and land. We honor the Native People that aided freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad. We honor Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai, and George Mitchell (founders of American Indian Movement (AIM)) who risked their lives fighting for Native rights while occupying Alcatraz and Wounded Knee. We honor Bridget Tolley and all the other women who fight to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We honor all Native women and mothers who give life and connect us all to that which is sacred.