Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

Most of us now know that the romanticized, pilgrim-Indian Thanksgiving we learned about in elementary school is more fairy tale than historic truth. And if you decide to brush up on your history before our next national feast next week, there are plenty of enlightening websites ripe for the Googling, so I won’t go into detail here.

But, it just so happens that November is Native American Heritage month, making this a great time to reflect on the Native cultures that have influenced our nation, including foods, art, music, crafts, and more. The President recently issued this proclamation: “This month, we celebrate and honor the many ways American Indians and Alaska Natives have enriched our Nation, and we renew our commitment to respecting each tribe’s identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

Those of us who roam the roads in our travel trailers have a great opportunity to experience those cultures and Native American history firsthand.

First, you can do a little online research, starting with the Native American Month website. Here, a number of leading institutions, including The Library of Congress, the National Park Service and the Smithsonian, have collaborated to create a site that highlights events around the country, and includes online museum exhibits, support for veterans, audio, videos, and resources for teachers.

And, here are a few more interesting links:

  • The National Park Service has created a special list of park sites called “Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary: Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures” not only for sites of Native American significance but all cultures of the Americas.
  • The National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC, is not to be missed if you’re anywhere near our nation’s Capital, with our without your RV!
  • Also, with Veteran’s Day fresh on our minds, you can read more about Native American Veterans from World War II to Iraq with this collection of personal stories.

My favorite website so far is the Texas Historical Commission’s site, which includes links to groups working to preserve native cultures, and to two great stops on any East Texas road trip: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, and Livingston, home of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

 

You’ll find Caddo Mounds just 26 miles west of Nacogdoches. Three earthen mounds still rise from the lush green landscape where the Caddo Indians, a mound-building culture, first built a village and ceremonial center 1,200 years ago. Artifacts on display include pottery, tools, and weapons. There’s a KOA campground close by in Rusk, or, you may want to reserve a campsite at Mission Tejas State Park.

In Livingston, you’ll find the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, which called Texas home long before Texas became a state. The tribe proudly shares their heritage through special events and craft shows, and RV camping with full hookups is available on site in the tribal community. You may also want to consider RV campsites at Lake Livingston State Park, just 20 miles or so down the road, or check out the Livingston KOA.

The next time you hitch up your camper, whether or not it’s officially Native American Heritage Month, think about spending some time exploring sites that highlight the rich, varied, culture of Texas’s Indian tribes.

What sites have you visited? Any recommendations?

~ G. Elaine Acker

 

 

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