Native American Heritage Month 2023
Welcome to November! Last week’s American Indigenous Arts Celebration (AIAC) was a fantastic way to kick off the month. But, did you know that November is also Native American Heritage Month? This month-long celebration seeks to honor, uplift, and celebrate Native voices, cultures, art, and music. Last year, we provided readers a list of action items to ethically seek out and participate in Native American Heritage Month in meaningful and supportive ways. These action items included supporting authentic Native artists and art, being an ally year-round, educating yourself on issues important to Indigenous communities, being intentional with your financial support, rejecting cultural appropriation, and boosting Native voices. They provided readers with a nuanced view of what it means to participate in the month, while uplifting Native communities. We encourage you to go back and consider those action items as you navigate the month.
This year, we will focus on local events and resources, as well as ways to educate and enrich your understanding of different Native communities, voices, and events. For the purposes of this post, we have chosen to focus on featuring events and exhibits that were directly organized or facilitated by Native voices, from a Native perspective. Throughout the month of November, we will be sharing different ways you can support, experience, and learn about Native American heritage, both in Florida and beyond. Follow us on social media for exhibits to visit, activities for kids, and resources on how to ethically participate in this national celebration.
Former President George W. Bush first nationally designated Native American Heritage Month in 1990, to center the significant contributions Native Americans made to the growth and establishment of the United States. As time has gone on, it has grown to a full month of recognition, with programs, events, and cultural celebrations available month-long. Part of the driving intention behind Native American Heritage Month is to celebrate and uplift the rich cultural diversity that is found in Native cultures and communities in America. The month provides an opportunity for individuals and institutions to explore and highlight Native music, art, voices, culture, and dance. During November, people of all backgrounds can find events and opportunities to celebrate and engage with various Native tribes and communities.
It is important that when we talk about Native cultures and tribes we recognize their cultural diversity and tribal sovereignty. Native peoples are not a monolith, and recognizing their individuality is essential. There are 574 federally recognized tribes in the Unites States, and many more state and unrecognized tribes. In this year’s proclamation about Native American Heritage Month, President Biden wrote that “During National Native American Heritage Month, we recognize the invaluable contributions of Native peoples that have shaped our country and honor the hundreds of Tribal Nations who continue exercising their inherent sovereignty as vital members of the overlapping system of governments in the United States.” An important aspect of celebrating Native American Heritage Month is recognizing their tribal sovereignty, and engaging with tribes in a respectful and honoring way.
In addition to celebrating, Native American Heritage Month is also about educating on a nuanced and thoughtful level. Often, cultural institutions and tribes utilize the month to share their tribal history, perspectives, and experiences with the wider community. This happens through community events, exhibits, lectures, and outreach programs throughout the month. But, it is also an opportunity to highlight and raise up issues that directly impact Native communities. Educating people and bringing awareness to these issues, and uplifting Native voices, is essential to supporting Native communities. Thus, Native American Heritage Month provides a platform for this education and brings awareness to issues that otherwise may fall through the cracks for those not a part of Indian Country. During November, try to be cognizant of issues that directly impact these communities, and what you can do to raise awareness and help.
Looking to Participate in South Florida?
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is located on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Museum hosts several public events, outreach opportunities, and community programs to better share the Seminole story. Additionally, they care for a collection of over 200,000 unique objects. These include “historical newspapers, manuscripts, patchwork clothing, baskets, dolls, militaria and various pieces of ephemera produced during the 20th century.” A robust number of permanent and rotating exhibits that highlight Seminole history, culture, and art are regularly available.
Visitors can also take advantage of the beauty of the Everglades. A mile-long raised boardwalk through a cypress dome is situated behind the Museum. Several interpretive stops are available along the boardwalk, including a Clan Pavilion, Ceremonial Grounds, Seminole Village, and Hunting Camp. Often, demonstrations on wood carving and tanning can be found in the Hunting Camp. Additionally, Seminole artists and crafters are often found in the Village demonstrating and selling traditional arts and crafts.
In addition to the well-established location on the Big Cypress Reservation, the Museum has recently installed a satellite exhibit at the NPS Oasis Visitor’s Center on Tamiami Trail (above). “Alligator Wrestling: Danger. Entertainment. Tradition.”, which was a rotating exhibit at the Museum a few years ago, is now open to the public in Everglades National Park. It is open seven days a week, 9a-4:30p.
Can’t make it out to the Museum or want to learn more? There is a large Online Collection available for your perusal! The Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9:00a-5:00p. Call ahead or check their website for holiday hours.
Events at Seminole Okalee Indian Village and Museum
Located in Hollywood, FL, Okalee is a beloved Seminole institution. Check out a previous blog post all about the history of Okalee! First opened as a tourist attraction, today it also features Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum exhibits and cultural and community events. Seminole Okalee Indian Village is located at 3551 N. State Road 7, Hollywood, Florida across from the Seminole Casino Hollywood. Below are three upcoming events featured at Okalee.
The Classic Car Showcase
The Classic Car Showcase is being held at Okalee on November 11th starting at 1pm. It is organized as a collaboration between Native Reel Cinema Fest, Okalee Indian Village, and Russ G Events. This family-friendly event includes Seminole storytelling, outdoor games, music by Cornwallis, a short film festival by Native Reel Cinema Fest, Seminole Stomp Dancing, and more. If you missed the HAKA Māori Cultural Experience at AIAC this year, make sure to stop by the showcase! They will be performing at 8:00p.
2nd Annual Pow Wow Marketplace
Organized in part as a celebration for Native American Heritage Month, the 2nd Annual Pow Wow Marketplace will be held November 16-18th, from 9:30a to 6:00p daily. Featuring Seminole arts and crafts vendors, wildlife shows, Pow Wow demonstrations, and crafting demonstrations, this event is open to the public.
“Ee Litch Ko: We’re Glad You are Here”, December 2nd
Although it is not during Native American Heritage Month, mark your calendars for December! During Miami Art Week, a special pop-up “Ee Litch Ko: We’re Glad You are Here” from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum will be available from December 1-5th at the fair, and December 2nd from 10:00a to 4:00p at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village and Museum in Hollywood, FL. The pop-up will feature a range of Seminole artists, from “the vibrant acrylics of Samuel Tommie to the delicate natural fiber art of Durante Blais-Billie.” The exhibit also “provides a unique opportunity to visit with Indigenous artists for whom Florida has always been home.” These contemporary Seminole artists will be sharing their newest art works as part of Miami Art Week. “Ee Litch Ko: We’re Glad You are Here” will be on view for a very brief period of time. So, make sure to swing by!
Miccosukee Indian Village
Opened in 1983, the Miccosukee Indian Village Museum offers a look at Miccosukee history and culture, as “preserved through through historical documents, archival photographs and original artifacts.” The Museum features both permanent and rotating exhibits. These showcase the early life of the Miccosukee Tribe, as well as “highlight historic and contemporary Native American, First Nations, and Aboriginal life.” The Village and Museum is located on Tamiami Trail. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00a-4:30p. Children under the age of 6 enjoy FREE admission. Children ages 6 through 12 are $15, and adult admission is $25.
It is especially important to visit and support tribally operated cultural institutions and museums, like the Miccosukee Indian Village Museum, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and the Seminole Okalee Indian Village and Museum. Doing so centers Native voices, and allows them to tell their own stories, historic and cultural truths, and experiences outside of the western lens. This month, we invite you to consider reorienting Native voices and perspectives when supporting and learning about these cultures and communities.
“Chehantamo: How are you?” at History Fort Lauderdale
Newly opened on October 22nd, this exhibit was made in collaboration with 15 Seminole artists. It is part of the 10th annual Native American Heritage exhibition at History Fort Lauderdale. The two-room exhibit features more than two dozen contemporary pieces. These span multiple generations of Seminole artists. A separate exhibit room holds eight large panel pieces, on loan from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. They depict the history of the Seminole War period. The featured artists include Tia Blais-Billie, Elizabeth Buster, Samuel Tommie, Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, Corrine Zepeda, Wilson Bowers, Nicholas DiCarlo, Elgin Jumper, Danielle Nelson, Alyssa J. Osceola, Jacqueline Osceola, Tina Osceola, Victoria Osceola, Daniel Tommie and Shonayeh Shawnie Tommie.
In a Seminole Tribune article about the exhibit, one of the featured artists, Tia Blais-Billie, commented on how the show has evolved. “I think something that’s been developed through the years of doing this show has been new forms of media and a wider age range,” Blais-Billie said. “I think it’s really important and very representative of the tribe today.” Her work on display, a piece named “Yaala” which is slang for “come along”, was created in a graphic abstract style. It “combines the work of four other Seminole artists – sister Durante Blais-Billie, Samuel Tommie, Gordon “Ollie” Wareham and Corrine Zepeda – to form the shape of a hand.” Other pieces include a mixed media sign (Wilson Bowers) and patchwork skirt and cape (Danielle Nelson).
The exhibit will be open through January 6th, 2024 at History Fort Lauderdale. It is open 7 days a week from 10:00a-4:00p.
We have provided several online resources to learn and engage with Native voices during November just below. We encourage you to use it as an opportunity critically examine your own thoughts and actions beyond November. How do you think about or engage with Native communities? Do you know about the Native inhabitants of where you live? Do you know how to make sure that any Native goods you purchase are authentic? During November, we encourage you to be self-reflective, and examine your relationship with Native communities.
In part, Native American Heritage Month is so important because it brings Native issues and perspectives to the forefront. This allows us to examine our role in the greater community, and how we can do better in real time. In President Biden’s White House proclamation, he ended by emphasizing our need for continued growth and reflection on a national level. It reads: “This month, we celebrate Native American history and culture. We are reminded that with hard work and a commitment to our founding ideals, we can address the wrongs of our past and become a more perfect Union — one that ensures liberty, justice, dignity, and equality for all.”
Below are several fantastic online educational resources, lectures, films, exhibits, and art installations available to anyone. We have included some hearty resources, chock-full of online events for learners of all ages. We encourage you to explore these resources earn more about the rich cultural diversity found throughout Indian Country!
Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to South Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series, and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Fort Myers, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.