It’s a busy week, so we’re gonna make it quick and easy… ish.
This may sound silly, but find a story online about Native joy – positive stories about Native people, or culture, or communities. Try to find one close to you, but make sure it is something in which the Native people themselves are the agents of the positive news. Read or view it – then share it!
Too many times Native people and communities are viewed in a negative light-only in people’s minds. For instance, while the vast majority of Native people are not alcoholics, or without homes, or abusers, the online sharing of Native people can disproportionately focus on alcohol or homelessness or abuse, and perpetuate stereotypes. Even “well-meaning” stories about recovery can still perpetuate this. This does NOT mean these stories should not be done – it’s important to know the full story. But Native joy and creativity and ingenuity should get as proportionate an amount of attention as non-Native populations.
By viewing and sharing a positive story about Native people and communities, you edge out a little of that. It’s a start.
NEXT STEPS: Commit to doing this once a week. Make it a habit to look for the positive stories and share them out at least once a week – but more is great!
Read this study about the harmful effects of Native mascots. That’s it. Familiarize yourself with the studied effects on real children, and then the adults they grow into.
NEXT STEPS: If you’re still not convinced that a seemingly “harmless” thing like a mascot is worth advocating to take down, read a lot more directly from Native people. If you’re already convinced, put that into action. Find the Native-themed mascot nearest to you – because there almost definitely is one. Write the school board or sports agency about taking it down, citing this study or other material. It’s advocacy work that can have real impact on racism against Native people.
Read a poem by Joy Harjo! Our current U.S. Poet Laureate will serve a third term, something only one person has done before, and she is the first Native poet to have the role.
You can find some here from the Poetry Foundation, there are others online, and she has numerous books of poetry out.
NEXT STEPS: If you’re already very familiar with Joy Harjo’s work, find another Native poet to discover. Here’s one list to get you started, or I’ve done a focus on Native poets on this site.
Watch this short video about “how Native people think about Thanksgiving.” You start to get an idea how complicated the feelings can get amongst Native people, and even with a single Native person. It’s not usually a simple answer.
NEXT STEPS: Start to consider putting these complicated feelings into action. Whether it’s this Thanksgiving, or planning your next, really think and talk out these kind of ideas on how to recognize it differently, or come up with your own ways.
Simply say a word of thanks to the land you are on, and the people on it. Maybe this is a prayer. Maybe this is something around the dinner table. Maybe this is online. Maybe this is in a diary. But pause for a moment today and give thanks to the land that gives you life. And then thank the people whom it was stolen from.
NEXT STEPS: Say it again tomorrow.
Buy Native! As we head into holiday shopping, simply purchase at least one gift (but why not more?) from a Native-owned business. This doesn’t need to be a big item if you can’t do it. Native businesses appreciate you purchasing even a Native-designed sticker or greeting card as a holiday gift. Go with your budget, and with what you think your intended gift receiver would find meaningful.
Here’s a short list of Native-owned business lists (including my own from a few years ago, which I’ll update soon!)
NEXT STEPS: This starts to sound repetitive, but it doesn’t make it less true – share the news! Share the businesses you enjoy on social media, talk them up! Also try to review Native businesses and the products you buy so others can be encouraged by the reviews.
From everything you’ve learned so far in the first four weeks of Alaska Native and Native American Heritage Month, write down one commitment you’ll be making next month. Maybe that’s doing one of the challenges again. Maybe that’s taking the “NEXT STEP” for a particular challenge. Maybe that’s something new, based on the Native community from where you’re from. But write it down, share it with at least one other person so you’ve committed, and then pick a day to complete it by!
NEXT STEPS: Plan on a commitment you’re going to make every week next month.
I’ll be putting past and present weeks here as they happen.