As we approach Thanksgiving, it is an apt time to look at a broader view of history beyond the familiar story of the Pilgrims and the native population of the Americas gathering to share a feast.
What is Native American Heritage Month
November, we celebrate Native American Heritage Month. A celebration officially signed into law in 1990 is a month dedicated to commemorating indigenous people. According to a 2022 White House Proclamation, "...we celebrate Indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States' solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations."
A Historical View
New studies have found a probable Indigenous population of 60 million throughout the Americas in 1492 (some studies show this number as high as 112M). Today, Native Americans make up less than 2% of the US population. In the decades after Europeans first set foot on the islands and eventually the mainland, the indigenous people population was decimated. Europeans brought the Americas various diseases such as measles, smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, cholera, and the bubonic plague across the Atlantic.
The result was later termed the "Great Dying," as the death toll extended to 90% of the pre-Columbian Indigenous population by the beginning of the 1600s.
As America developed, broken treaties and ancestral lands were taken, and US policies of assimilation and termination sought to decimate Native populations and their ways of life.
Contributions to Modern Day Society
Despite the tragic decimation of their population and way of life, indigenous people have made numerous societal contributions.
Here are 10 things we wouldn't have without indigenous people:1. The log cabin was an adaptation of the Indian log or longhouse.
2. Canoeing, lacrosse, and tug-of-war were sports created by Native Americans.
3.Corn, 14 different beans, maple syrup, wild rice, pumpkin, and avocado started with Native American farmers.
4. Native Americans invented the first chewing gum.
5. Although snowshoes were invented in Central Asia, Native Americans adopted them in the Great Lakes region of the early Americas. They evolved the shoe into what it is today.
6. Barbecues, hammocks, kayaks, and moccasins are all Native American words adopted into our modern culture.
7. Native Americans developed and communicated with sign language. They used a system of hand signals to facilitate trade and other communications with other tribes.
8. Tobacco, cigars, and pipe smoking we're rich Native American traditions
9. Cotton was originally a Native American resource.
10. Native Americans were the first known culture to use rubber. They used it to make containers and a ball for playing games.
Why Recognize Native American Heritage Month As a Company?
Celebrating Native American Heritage month provides an opportunity to become more educated about Native American culture and history and learn about the unique challenges faced by this population. For example, the policy of forced cultural assimilation caused irreparable trauma to native peoples. This policy almost eradicated their culture, language, and traditions.
As we seek to cultivate a culture that values diversity and the exchange of varying points of view, it is invaluable to understand the negative impact of how indigenous populations were treated. We can apply these historical lessons to help us model a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive.
Learn More about Hanzo's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.