Showing love for Native American culture during NNAHM and beyond
Written By: Brittany Harlow
(Tulsa, OKLA.) Congress credited several recognitions to Native Americans when they officially designated November as "Native American Indian Heritage Month" back in 1990, such as “the people of the United States should be reminded of the assistance given to the early European visitors to North America by the ancestors of today's Native American Indians, including knowledge and training provided to the pilgrims in survival, hunting, and cultivation, and fertilization of indigenous crops”.
That is, after all, the reason the “first” Thanksgiving just over 400 years ago was possible at all. Considered to be a harvest celebration, the pilgrims would likely have all died out if not for the help of their Native American neighbors.
In Oklahoma, where nearly 15 percent of the state population identifies as American Indian or Alaskan Native, the opportunities to pay homage to Native American culture are plentiful.
The First Americans Museum opened in Oklahoma City in 2021. It is described as a place where “visitors experience the collective histories of 39 distinctive First American Nations in Oklahoma today” in one place. They’re open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed every Tuesday.
Get plugged into the American Indian Resource Center at the Tulsa City-County Library. In addition to providing access to more than 4,000 books, periodicals, and media for adults and children by and about American Indians, the center also puts on community events like stickball games and traditional Native food cooking classes. Their physical location is at Zarrow Regional Library.
The new Cherokee National History Museum was restored and opened in 2019. Hands-on exhibits showcase Cherokee story and their Trail of Tears gallery is “brought to life by authentic voices of the Cherokee People”. Their regular hours are from Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Interested in learning more about your own Muscogee Creek heritage, or MCN culture in general? The Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Library and Archives is a great place to start. You can browse their information in person or online. Information on the Yuchi tribe is also available.
Jerome and Dana Tiger are widely considered to be major influences in the development of contemporary American Indian art. Visit their family-owned and operation business The Tiger Gallery in Muskogee to view and purchase their art as well as other art created by the Tiger family.
Tiger Art will also be at this year’s Native American Christmas Market in Glenpool on December 3, along with many other American Indian artists and craftspeople selling original arts and crafts, paintings, and clothing.
Big Rain Gallery is owned by two Osage women in Pawhuska. Their gallery supports and promotes Native artists who create art, jewelry, silverwork, accessories, and clothing. They even hold occasional "Meet and Greets" where you can visit with local artists and take part in workshops.
Not only does the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art in Durant have art representing more than 30 tribes, but it’s also surrounded by three acres of native forest. Art includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and pottery.
Want to catch a movie? The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Indigenous film. Happening now until November 25, the online program includes a total of 36 films (six features and 30 shorts). They even have films for kids!
The hit FX on Hulu show “Reservation Dogs” isn’t for kids, but it is very entertaining way to view Indigenous culture through a 21st century lens. Created by Sterlin Harjo, a member of the Seminole Nation, and Taika Waititi, of Māori descent, it’s filmed right here in Oklahoma.
Comanche citizen and co-curator of the award-winning exhibition “Americans” Paul Chaat Smith voices an interesting look at the Thanksgiving holiday and doesn’t mince words about whitewashed Native American history.
Browse through Joy Harjo’s “Living Nations, Living Words” project, which features a sampling of work by 47 Native Nations poets. Harjo is the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States and the first Native American poet to serve in that position.
Take part in an event at a local Indian church. Everyone is welcome at these church events, which include dinners, festivals, fundraisers, and other events. There is the Community Indian Baptist Church in Sapulpa, Tulsa Indian United Methodist Church, and Oakhurst Indian Fellowship Church in Tulsa.
Community centers are a great way to connect with members of the Muscogee Creek community. If you are a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation, you can find your local Indian Community Center here.
In 2020, the Supreme Court affirmed a large part of Tulsa County is Muscogee Creek Reservation land. Be on the lookout for other ways to honor Muscogee Creek Nation culture this month and throughout the rest of the year by following Muscogee Creek Nation Historic and Cultural Preservation.
Great information!! Happy Thanksgiving VNN!!