November 23, 2021
Honoring Native American Heritage Month
It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes the joyful event of one person or group is the sorrowful memory and history of another. That is the case for “Thanksgiving,” which for Native American communities marks the beginning of the taking of their lands, deaths of their people, and denigration of their cultures, and experiencing ongoing forms of racism and inequity.
Indigenous people had rich, robust heritages and traditions. They had an intimate knowledge of the lands they inhabited and how to draw sustenance from the ecosystem without destroying it. All of this was taken from them by people who deemed Indigenous people to be inferior.
This country must reckon with the atrocities and suffering that Indigenous people experienced and continue experiencing because of cultural and institutionalized racism and discrimination. We must recognize that Indigenous peoples have a story that differs emotionally and factually from what is usually taught and perpetuated about the settling of this country. Indigenous peoples have a history that is filled with a heritage and legacy that is equally deserving of commemoration and celebration.
As nurses, we recognize that access to healthcare is a major inequity that Native American populations endure. But, it is important to also focus on more structural inequities throughout society that serve to adversely impact the health and well-being of Native American communities.
We are guided by the American Nurses Association’s Ethics and Human Rights Statement that says we must “bring attention to human rights violations in all settings and contexts and must respond when these violations are encountered” as well as “advocate for the protection of human rights and social justice.”
The widely celebrated “Thanksgiving” holiday serves as an annual reminder of our duty to continue the quest for health equity and the elimination of health inequalities for our country’s Indigenous populations.
November is Indigenous Heritage Month. Join us in learning more about and honoring the richness of Indigenous communities. Below are a few resources we have explored to support our personal journeys by expanding our awareness and elevating our understanding. Invest the time to read, understand, and reflect on this country’s real history, which is both sad and inspiring.
In closing, we offer respect for and gratitude to Indigenous peoples who have shared traditions and teachings in ways that have immeasurably enriched the lives of all.