Nov. 1 marks the beginning of American Indian Heritage Month. This is a time when Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, and affiliated Island communities celebrate their heritage and acknowledge the Indigenous history on the land America is built on.
According to a study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Native American tribes across the United States have lost 99% of their land. This is due to a number of things that stemmed from European migration to the New World.
Sacred Heart University noted “the traumatic impact of policies of
removal, termination, and assimilation had, and continue to have, within these Indigenous communities,” in their Tribal Land Acknowledgement.
Recognizing the history of the land Sacred Heart University was built on remembers those who occupied the land on which we reside and the relationship between Indigenous peoples and
their traditional territories. A Tribal Land Acknowledgment shows respect for the people who were here for generations before Europeans.
Southwestern Connecticut was home to the Paugussett, Pequonnock, Schaghticoke, and Wappinger peoples.
In particular, the Golden Hill Paugussett Nation extended from New Haven to Westport, CT. An important aspect of their culture revolved around the “Three Sisters,” corn, beans, and squash, that were cultivated by the women of the tribe.
Starting with Dutch traders settling along the Hudson River in 1614, Europeans began to explore the New World and exiled the Indigenous tribes from their land. Countless died due to foreign diseases Europeans unknowingly brought with them, and those who didn’t were forced to practice Puritanical Christianity or face enslavement or death.
Sacred Heart’s Language of Inclusion recognizes Native Americans as, “A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America
(including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who classify themselves as Native American, Native Indian American and Alaska Native.”
A day of remembrance for the founding of the United States used to be called Columbus Day and is now replaced with “Indigenous People’s Day.” According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden stated this was “to honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today.” On the academic calendar, SHU refers to this period of time as “Fall Break.”
“[American Indian] Heritage Month is a time to reflect and celebrate the lives, culture, and experiences of Indigenous Native American people,” said Robert Johnson, Executive Director of Sacred Heart’s Multicultural Center.
“[American Indian] Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the diverse and culturally rich peoples that have shaped the land Sacred Heart is on,” said Khris White, Sacred Heart’s fencing team coach. “Representation on campus is so important because it not only honors the past, but also paves the way for a more inclusive University.”
According to Data USA, Sacred Heart has a 0.0818% American Indian or Alaska Native population, and a 0.0409% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population.
“I would love to have the opportunity to celebrate Native American history through SHU,” said junior Emily DelBene. “Seeing representation not only educates me about different cultures, but I think it enriches the lives of all students on campus.”