SIU celebrates Native American heritage month

Photo+Courtesy+of+SIU+

Photo Courtesy of SIU

Photo Courtesy of SIU

By Janae Mosby, Staff Reporter

SIU is celebrating Native American heritage month this November and the events will help to educate people on the history and culture of indigenous peoples. 

One of the heritage month organizers and a member of Montana’s Assiniboine tribe, Krista English, is helping give the organizers information about what is accurate and what is or is not offensive.

English is leading the inclusive conversation about missing and murdered indigenous women on Nov. 13.

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“The speech that I am going to be giving encompasses historical trauma and that goes all the way back to when non-natives settlers first came to this area,” English said.

This historical trauma leads to modern times where the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women is possible, English said.

“In 2016, there were over 5,000 indigenous women and girls that were reported missing, but only 116 of those cases were logged by the Department of Justice,” English said.

On some reservations, native women are 10 times more likely to be murdered as the national average, English said.

English said the missing and murdered indigenous women’s movement did not start picking up until 2015.

“There is a lot going on that has not really been addressed and that’s because when members are reported missing, a lot of times law enforcement does not take it seriously,” English said.

English said there is a lot of misinformation out there about who native people are and much of their culture is being appropriated, like with mascots.

“Native American heritage month really is about educating the public on who natives are, like what we contributed to society and raising awareness about the challenges we face as native people today,” English said.

Director of the Center for Archaeological Investigation Dr. Mark Wagner is going to be the history of Native American rock art in southern Illinois.

“I am going to be talking about Native American rock art in southern Illinois and we do have a large number of sites that are both pictographs and petroglyphs. We have more in this part of the state than anywhere else,” Wagner said. 

Pictographs are sites that are painted and petroglyphs are sites that are carved into the rock face.

Wagner works closely with many Native American groups like the Shawnee and the Cherokee and he is on the board of the National Cherokee Trail of Tears council.

“There are Native American people in southern Illinois going back to about 12,000 years ago. So, there are all sorts of sites and all sorts of artifacts in this region going back that far in time,” Wagner said.

Wagner said that some of the rock art appears to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old.

“All these different groups through time are creating a lot of images on the landscape. This is probably because they are going out and conducting rituals or religious activities,” Wagner said.

Wagner said it is important to celebrate heritage month because Native American are the original inhabitants of the United States and it is important to involve them and discuss things that affect their heritage.

“It’s really important to honor the original inhabitants of this land and we really want to honor the history that different tribes have been through. We also want to make sure we are not only telling one kind of story about people who were oppressed and people who are alive today and contributing to our society,” coordinator Sara Marbes said.

The month kicked off of Monday Nov. 2 and on Friday Nov. 6, there was a virtual curators choice event where Karen Ann Hoffman creates decorative beadworks.

The other events included in heritage month are Appreciation and Appropriation discussion on Nov. 18 and Native Storytelling on Nov. 19.

“This is a chance to focus on honoring the history and contemporary experience of Native Americans. These are living cultures in the United States that our students should be familiar with and celebrate,” Marbes said.

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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