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November is National Native American Heritage Month, as declared by the U.S. Congress. At first one may wonder, what's the importance of selecting a random month to celebrate a culture? Random or not, though, for me it means more energy and celebration of the people I belong to. It means more reveries and revelations, more of soft, calm excitement in my mind.
Cultural awareness is wonderful, but while people's intentions may be great, this may often get too gushy and one-dimensional. To add more dimension to the events and activities that will happen this month, I believe focusing on art will show the Native culture as it stands, without the victim cycle that runs through our people, or the racial tension that still exists. The art is fantastic, with storytelling, drumming, carving, beadwork and many other beautiful expressions. It shows an understanding of our people as an earth-sensing, spiritual group.
To add dimension, I will try to explain how I understand my culture, as more than a group of people with different viewpoints: Have you been lonely and distant, where it feels like you are on the outside looking in, away and hidden from other people? Then a warm spirit comes to you and seems to invite you into a personal and sacred place. And suddenly worlds of excitement and curiosity are open. Have you had that happen to you? It happens to me every time I see a happy, beautiful, laughing Native woman, every time I see the amazing artwork, and every time I create something myself. My culture is a warm spirit inviting me back into the world.
Ishmael C. Hope