National Native American Heritage Month
As Christian educators, so much of what we teach comes through the lens of what we were taught and learned. But what about the stories we haven’t heard?
How much do you know about the stories of Native Americans?
At Valley Christian, we want our students to think through the impact of the stories we tell and the stories we don’t tell as we guide them to better understand our history as a nation and people and the result of that history on how we live with other cultures and people.
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month starting November 1, we honor the remarkable Native Americans who have contributed much to improve our nation's character. Here’s one example of how we can begin to understand the impact of local Native Americans in San Jose, California, where Valley Christian Schools is located.
Valley Christian Schools is established on the ancestral lands of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area and is within the Thámien Ohlone-speaking tribal territory. The present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, with a federally documented membership of over 550, is comprised of all of the known surviving American Indian lineages with origins in the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through Missions Santa Clara, San José, and Dolores, during the beginning of the Hispano-European empire into Alta California.
That statement paraphrases the extensive land acknowledgment generously given to San José State University by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe (https://www.sjsu.edu/diversity/land-acknowledgement). The full land acknowledgment concludes with an important recognition by SJSU of the “importance of this land to the indigenous Muwekma Ohlone people of this region, and consistent with our principles of community and diversity strives to be good stewards on behalf of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe whose land we occupy.”
Similarly, Valley Christian Schools is committed to being good stewards of God's resources to establish and maintain the school facilities and educational programs. For biblical references about stewardship, read 1 Timothy 6:17-21 and Matthew 25:14-30.
Historical Perspective of Native American Culture
While the history of Native people in the United States is, at times, dark and painful, the Christian faith gives perspective for moving forward to honor and support the remaining Native American tribes by presenting truthful information about their culture. We can take a simple step to honor Native Americans by learning about their culture.
Dr. Rebecca Hernandez (https://www.newcollegeberkeley.org/blog/2022/8/29/meet-our-new-advisor-rebecca-hernandez), a Christian member of the Mescalero/Warm Springs Apache (SE New Mexico), regularly presents about Native Americans and their cultural connections with God and the truth of the Bible.
• 574 Federally recognized Native American tribes have a treaty with the United States
• Native Americans are also accurately referred to as American Indians, First Americans, and Indigenous People
• All Native people in what is now the United States believed in a single creator who placed them on the land they inhabited with specific (original) instructions.
• This connection to a place on earth is deeply rooted in Native traditions, thus creating reciprocal relationships with the land—requiring careful, balanced caretaking.
• Creator-mandated responsibility to the land—to receive from the land is a gift, not a right
• Knowledge of the land, plants, animals, skies, and waters was essential to that relationship building, and tribes knew how to manage, steward, and live well on the lands where they resided
Native Americans and Christianity
Dr. Hernandez illustrates many connections between Native American culture and Christianity, namely God’s purpose for man to care for the earth. The reference to a single being known as creator points to the one Creator, the Lord God. In the biblical account of the creation of man in Genesis 2 we read that Adam was formed from the dust of the earth. God made the Garden of Eden for Adam, placed him in it, and gave him instructions on how to care for and manage the garden (v.15). God taught Adam about the plants and trees in the garden and allowed him to name all the animals (v.20).
Valley Christian Schools is committed to respecting and honoring Native American culture and history while giving our highest honor to the Creator of all life, God. We are equipping our students to understand the connecting points between God’s character, the Bible, and our multi-cultural community.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH
1. Learn about the Native Americans
- Native American Heritage Month is an excellent way to learn about the history of American Indians. You can teach your children about the country’s past and how Native Americans have helped America.
- Start where you live. There is or was once a tribe there. Discover their cultural heritage and whether there is there still a tribal community presence
- Find the tribal territories on this interactive map: https://native-land.ca/
- Teacher resources for using the map: https://native-land.ca/resources/teachers-guide/
- Discover the local Muwekma tribe: http://www.muwekma.org/
- Read the Muwekma Ohlone SJSU Area Land Acknowledgement
2. Visit museums
- You can visit or take your kids to a museum or virtually visit it to show them artifacts and exhibits of the Native Americans’ jewelry, customs, and culture.
- National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.
- Museum of the American Indian, Novato, CA
- California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, Santa Rosa, CA
3. Travel virtually to see other cultures
- There are many cultural videos that you can watch on native culture, like “Living Earth Festival”. If you or your kids are interested in learning about Native American culture, find a documentary or movie about it and watch it.
- Google Arts and Culture feature “Indigenous Americas.”
- National Public Radio (NPR) celebrates Indigenous communities— with stories, podcasts, and more
- PBS explores the stories, culture, and history of Native America.
- A great way to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month is through reading, which can enhance our ability to understand the feelings, beliefs, and experiences embedded in Native American culture.
- “All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
- Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- 100 Native American Children’s Books
Prayer of Indigenous Peoples, Refugees, Immigrants, and Pilgrims
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
We come before you
As many parts of a single body;
People drawn from every tribe,
Every nation, every language;
Some indigenous – peoples of the land;
Some refugees, immigrants, pilgrims – people on the move;
Some hosts, some guests;
All of us searching for an eternal place
Where we can belong.
(Source: Christian Reformed Church, https://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/worship_resources_for_native_american_heritage_month.pdf)
For More Information
Look for monthly cultural and heritage celebration updates. Contact Dr. Steven J. McGriff, Director of Biblical Unity, Valley Christian Schools [firstname.lastname@example.org]