Native American Heritage Month, observed every November in the United States, commemorates the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and accomplishments of Indigenous people and their contributions to this nation. Here are some creative ways to observe this monthlong occasion.
1. Plan a Trip to Taos
A trip to the northern New Mexico town of Taos should be on your vacation bucket list if you love learning about history, geology and Native American civilizations. The Taos Pueblo tribe built and still maintains one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the U.S. Having survived for hundreds of years with its cultural integrity intact, Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to the community’s resistance to modernization and outside influence, its adobe residences and religious structures have survived since as early as the 13th century. The Taos Tribal Council, which owns the pueblo and considers it sacred, does not allow contemporary conveniences such as running water and electricity, making a trip there feel like you have stepped back in time. Today, it is one of the most frequently visited tourist sites in the Southwest.
2. Appreciate Native American Contributions to American History
Every schoolchild knows the legend of the first Thanksgiving and the story of how Sacagawea guided the Lewis and Clark expedition, but Native American contributions to our nation’s history go far beyond that. For example, during WWII, the U.S. military recruited Native Americans who were fluent in their tribal languages to send secret battlefield communications. Members of at least 14 Native nations, including the Navajo, Choctaw, Cherokee and Comanche, served as code talkers in the Pacific and European theaters during the war.
Additionally, corn is a staple crop that’s a component of foods from chips to desserts, but you may not realize it doesn’t grow without human intervention. Native Americans learned the secrets of cultivating corn as long as 10,000 years ago, then taught European colonists how to grow it.
3. Discover What Native Land You Live On
Many places in the Americas have been home to various Native tribes, but if you don’t have Indigenous heritage, you might not have a connection to what tribes call your state or city their ancestral home. Native Land Digital, an Indigenous-led nonprofit based in Canada, has developed a searchable map of Native territories, languages and treaties.
Users can click on places across the Americas or type a specific city, state or ZIP code into the search box to see which Indigenous tribes lived there. If you wish, you can apply “settler labels” to see how the map corresponds with contemporary state lines. Click on each nation’s name for a deeper dive into history.
4. Understand What Contributes to High Addiction Rates
Despite only representing a small fraction of the U.S. population, Native Americans experience disproportionately higher rates of substance abuse compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggest that up to 10% of Native Americans have a substance use disorder, including alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine and inhalant abuse. Despite this prevalence, a tiny percentage of people who need treatment ever get help.
Natives are exceedingly vulnerable to the consequences of substance abuse, including high dropout rates, violence, chronic health issues and suicidal ideation. The ongoing results of Native Americans’ intergenerational legacy of trauma, oppression and displacement has combined with social isolation, poverty, high incarceration rates and a lack of access to health care on reservations to make Indigenous people more likely to fall into the self-destructive cycle of substance abuse.
How Can We Help You?
Vista Taos Renewal Center is proud to help people recover from addiction. We know how powerless and hopeless it can feel to have a substance use problem you cannot solve on your own, and we are here to help with our accredited continuum of care for men and women. To learn more about what we offer, please connect with us today.