Native American Heritage Day And Every Day: Celebrating A Record-Breaking Number Of Native Americans
The Friday after Thanksgiving may be best known as Black Friday, but it is also a day that deserves much more attention: Native American Heritage Day. It was established to honor Native Americans as the first people of this nation and to celebrate their heritage.
We can also celebrate the fact that more people of Native American heritage have been voted into the U.S. House of Representatives this month than ever before, with six Native American House candidates winning seats in the 117th Congress. There is an even split in representation across gender and political affiliation: Three are women, three are men, three are Republicans and three are Democrats.
Here are some words of wisdom from these U.S. representatives on knowing the history, voting for the greater good, and the power of hope.
“Celebrate our resilience, our strength, our contributions, and our existence. Then vote like your life depends on it — because it does. Vote to protect our planet. Vote to ensure our treaty rights are recognized. Vote for better jobs, fair wages, and better healthcare. Vote to protect the safety of Indigenous, and all, women and girls. Vote for our future."
Debra Haaland, Congresswoman, New Mexico, a member of the Laguna Pueblo nation.
On using your voice...
“Your voice deserves to be heard just as much as mine and just as much as the people who have been in decision-making positions for so long.”
Sharice Davids, Congresswoman, Kansas, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation
On knowing the history...
“Native Americans have a unique opportunity to educate their children and fellow Americans about the legacy and hardships Native Americans have overcome. We know the stories of our ancestors and we pass them on to future generations. Our history and our sovereignty are what bind us together.”
Markwayne Mullin, Congressman, Oklahoma, a member of the Cherokee Nation
On protecting sovereignty...
“My role in Congress is really a very simple one: To try to explain to some of my other members the complexities of not just Chickasaw history, but of Native history, and some of the incredibly difficult issues involved in defending and promoting and protecting tribal sovereignty.”
Tom Cole, Congressman, Oklahoma, a member of the Chickasaw Nation
On representing all people...
“It’s about people and representing all of our values, all of our shared likes and even dislikes and coming together.”
Yvette Herrell, Congresswoman, New Mexico, a member of the Cherokee Nation.
On the power of hope...
“Public servants like my dad, Senator Akaka...came from a generation of veterans who believed in the American dream. They understood that if people commit to something greater than themselves, the dream never dies.”
Kaialiʻi Kahele, Congressman, Hawaii, Native Hawaiian
Article originally published in Forbes.