November is designated Native American Heritage Month (NAHM), when we take the time to recognize the people, traditions, and sovereignty that exists for the peoples who resided over 14,000 years before this land became the modern United States.
We start the way we start so many university events, with a land acknowledgement:
We are gathered on the land of the Kalapuya, who today are represented by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, whose relationship with this land continues to this day. We offer gratitude for the land itself, for those who have stewarded it for generations, and for the opportunity to study, learn, work, and be in community on this land. We acknowledge that our University’s history, like many others, is fundamentally tied to the first colonial developments in the Willamette Valley. Finally, we respectfully acknowledge and honor past, present, and future Indigenous students of Willamette.
Native American Heritage Month evolved from one-day to a month-long celebration of Indigenous people over the course of several decades before it was officially designated in 1990 by then President George H.W. Bush. Today, it offers an opportunity to acknowledge Willamette University’s fraught relationship with Native communities, a relationship that is still undergoing healing.
As the month commences, the words of Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, offer a reflection: “We are not a ‘historically’ underserved population. My history is one of ancestors who survived so I could thrive. My history didn’t start with ‘western civilization.’ I am institutionally underserved. And I am historically resilient.”
Indigenous students have exemplified this resilience through the years. In October, the Native & Indigenous Student Union at Willamette organized activities for Indigenous Peoples Week, including a “Resource Hub” on contemporary issues.
This month brings more opportunities to engage in learning and celebration, on campus and in the community:
- Nov. 5: Gallery Talk: "TRANSFORMATIONS" with exhibition curator Rebecca Dobkins, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Free, registration requested.
- Nov. 6: Voices Like Thunder: An Afternoon of Poetry with the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF). Get a free e-book of “The Larger Voice: Celebrating the Work of Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Literature Fellows'' by clicking the link below. This event will bring poetry readings by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest (Lummi Nation) and other local Native poets. The readings will be followed by a Q&A panel and an open mic for Indigenous and BIPOC community poets. Portland Art Museum, Fields Ballroom, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are free but must be reserved.
- Nov. 9: Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., Writer and Director of the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Ford 122. Free and open to the campus community.
- Nov. 23: PNCA students can join an outing organized by Student Life to view exhibits at the Portland Art Museum featuring indigenous artists. “Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe” (1915–1983) introduces new generations to one of the twentieth century’s most innovative Native American painters. “They Come From Fire” is an immersive, site-responsive installation by multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson. Free for PNCA students! Contact Malavika Arun email@example.com for more information and to sign up.
Please join the community in acknowledging a hard history, celebrating present culture makers, and working toward a better future.