By Chuck Walker
MOBILE, Ala. – A Native American philosopher once said, “History is not there for you to like or dislike. It is there for you to learn from it. And if it offends you, even better. Because then you are less likely to repeat it. It’s not yours to erase. It belongs to all of us.”
Remember that thought as we progress through November and celebrate Native American Heritage Month.
Established in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, the month celebrates Native American culture and history. It is a way to spotlight cultures that have often gone ignored and a way to honor Native Americans’ victories while also acknowledging their struggles.
“During November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District pauses to recognize the contributions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives,” said Catherine Cummings, Chief of Equal Employment and Opportunity. “This year’s theme is Tribal Nations Soaring to New Heights. I encourage everyone to read about the significant impacts American Indians and Alaskan Natives provided to military history during World War II.”
Native American Heritage Month is a month-long celebration that aims to recognize the achievements and contributions of Native Americans. It is a way to ensure that the rich histories, stories, and traditions of Native Americans continue to be passed down and spoken.
There are different ways one can celebrate or learn about Native American history. You can read a book on Native American history, watch a documentary, or visit a Native American Museum.
There are Native American museums in 47 of the 50 states, and there is a significant museum here in Alabama at Moundville.
The Moundville Archaeological Park is a Native American Museum just north of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is home to many artifacts, some dating back to the 11th century.
Alexandria Knight, Mobile District Tribal Liaison and Archaeologist said sites like Moundville and other sites in the Mobile District remind us that Native American culture is all around us and should be celebrated.
“It is important to acknowledge and celebrate Native American culture and history, especially here in the Mobile District,” Knight said. “So much of what we considered “southern culture” originated within the indigenous peoples of this land. From their foodways to architecture, I mean even the names Mobile and Alabama originated from the Mabilia and Alibamo Indian Tribes, respectively.”
Cummings said that she encourages everyone in the District to celebrate the month and that events are planned to honor and remember the contributions of Native Americans.
“The District’s Special Emphasis Program Manager for American Indians and Alaskan Natives month is Alexandria Knight,” Cummings said. “She is preparing a very informative Lunch and Learn for November 28. Flyers and e-mails about that event will be forthcoming. I hope everyone will support this event and others during the year. You may learn something you did not know about a particular culture.”
Knight said that learning about our Native American Heritage and Culture, as Corps employees, will help us better understand the areas and the waterways we manage.
“Learning about the people who inhabited these lands and how they used the waterways such as the Tombigbee, ACT, and ACF for millennia before their removal is important,” Knight said. “It provides an even greater insight and understanding of our landscape and the waterways we manage.”