November 14, 2008

Heritage month is ignored

Column:  American Indian Heritage Month seems to have been put out of mindAs north winds whip across the prairies and mountains, we should expect to hear more conversational gusts about Native people as we reach the midway peak of American Indian Heritage Month.

Or will we?

It reminds me of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People that ended in 2004, a 10-year time frame to recognize the rights of the world's 370 million indigenous people.

Few people knew the decade existed.

In order to give it the attention it deserved, the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples adopted a second decade for indigenous peoples in 2005. Before the second decade ended, forum members set a goal of having the U.N. General Assembly adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For more than 25 years, indigenous peoples lobbied for the declaration. In September 2007, 143 member nations of the General Assembly finally adopted it. While the day marked a significant victory for indigenous groups worldwide, four countries voted against the declaration, including the United States.

As we reach mid-November, it's not a big surprise that American Indian Heritage Month seems to have as much relevance on the national public agenda as a firefly has to a herd of buffalo.
Comment:  This month has seen several Native film festivals, public TV specials, and powwow-style fairs and celebrations. These activities are what we might call the usual suspects. They "speak" to people who already are interested in Natives and seek information on them.

We haven't seen many outside-the-box efforts to raise non-Natives' awareness of Natives. I'm not even sure what it would take to get most people thinking about Indians. We need the modern-day equivalent of the peaceful protest: e.g., the takeover of Alcatraz or the Kootenai tollbooth "war."

And no, I'm not talking about Russell Means's toothless declarations re his Republic of Lakotah. Painting teardrops on Mt. Rushmore's faces under cover of night, as in the movie Skins, probably would be more effective.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

I'm just not hearing anything about this "out there". I only encounter it on this web site.