Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Presenting Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving

November is Native American Heritage Month and November 24 is Thanksgiving. I wanted to take a look at how archaeological artifacts are being used to celebrate Native American Heritage and Thanksgiving. The following are some of the events, exhibits, and activities that I found. Enjoy! And Happy Turkey Day!

A few museums have come up with their own traditions. For example Garvies Point Museum & Preserve has hands-on activities and dish up their well-known popcorn soup in their annual Thanksgiving Native American Feast. Some of the activities include displaying and using Native American tools, and also face painting with natural pigments. 

Other museums and collections have taken the opportunity to pull out rarely seen artifacts and display them. DeSoto Arts Council displayed a ceremonial cat serpent vessel on November 12, 2011. University of Arkansas put together a display of Native American artifacts and photographs to honor Native American heritage.

National Park Services compiled Featured Historic Properties for American Indian Heritage Month. These sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is frequently dominated by historic buildings. I find this American Indian Heritage list to be a refreshing view of prehistoric  buildings and monuments.


A news article by Gary Daniels in the Examiner (Savannah, GA) also listed Native American sites in Georgia in recognition of Native American Heritage Month. One of these sites is Eagle Rock, a ceremonial location. It's a good month to celebrate birds, check it out if you're in the area :)

This large rock mound in the shape of a bird, known as Rock Eagle, marks the grave of an important Native American chief and is just one of many important Native American sites in Georgia you can visit.
Photo by Gary C. Daniel, 2006.
Of course, Native Americans are also presenting and sharing their own heritage this month. The Cherokee Nation has offered free admission to all Cherokee Museums in honor of Native American Heritage Month. The Siletz Indians have a Restoration Celebration including a Restoration Pow-Wow in November. These events celebrate their regained federal recognition status which occurred in November 1977 and the Siletz Indians celebrate their own heritage, as well as all Native Americans' heritage in November. The American Indian Heritage Month Social Pow-Wow takes place annually on Thanksgiving weekend.

Native Americans are  also reclaiming Thanksgiving. Not as the idealized friendship between Pilgrims and Indians, and not as a Day or Mourning, but as a harvest feast filled with traditional Native American foods. The National Museum of the American Indian provides some interesting information on American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving.

I expected more exhibits specifically related to Thanksgiving or Native American Heritage Month. But the majority of museums that have large collections of Native American artifacts (historical or archaeological), have these artifacts on display year round-it is a main part of the interpretation of the museum or historic sites. Activities and events, like those mentioned above, are much more common.

I only found a couple of exhibits specifically related to Thanksgiving. The Pilgrim Hall Museum: America's museum of Pilgrim posessions takes a special interest in Thanksgiving and numerous historical artifacts have been collected and curated related to the holiday. And the Children's Museum of Manhattan developed an exhibit on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, including original models used for construction of iconic balloons. Including Snoopy, a personal favorite :)

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Archaeology, Conservation and Curation by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License