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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage month. Historically, the Muscogee, along with the Choctaw and other indigenous people, were the Winter Park area’s first residents. Rollins College offers various experiences to learn and understand Native American history and culture. Olin Library is celebrating by displaying books and films, all available for checkout.

“Native American Media and Culture,” a course offered in Spring 2016 taught by Professor Denise Cummings, confronts “how a variety of media texts and traditions intersect with questions of race, ethnicity, and other identity categories, how such texts have engaged with diversity and marginalization, class and inequality, and how they may affect identity formations and relations.”

According to the National Congress of American Indians and Native American Heritage Month website, only 50 years ago major restrictions were “facing American Indians and Alaska Natives voters, struck down in every state with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, ensuring Native people could participate as voters in state and national elections.”

President George H. W. Bush declared November as National Native American Heritage Month 25 years ago. According to a proclamation by President Obama in 2010, marking November 26 as Native American Heritage Day, “America’s journey has been marked both by bright times of progress and dark moments of injustice for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Since the birth of America, they have contributed immeasurably to our country and our heritage, distinguishing themselves as scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in all aspects of our society.”

The Native American population in America is growing. According to the 2010 census, “there are over 5.2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people (in combination or alone), and there are 566 federally recognized tribal nations that exist as sovereign nations within 33 states of the United States.”

November 11 also marks Veterans Day. According to the Native American Heritage Month website, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita, compared to any other ethnic groups.

As a highlight, the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki: A Place to Learn, A Place to Remember Immersion partnered with the Seminole Tribe of Florida at the Everglades National Park from November 13–15. Participants learned about the Seminole people, including their history and culture. According to Sofia Macias, staff facilitator for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Immersion, “Participants are staying at the Billie Swamp Safari nearby, in traditional native-style chickees (thatched roof dwellings) with no electricity and no running water. At Billie Swamp, we will also be partaking in an evening swamp safari tour, and a couple of other nature and animal focused cultural activities.”

Abby Hollern, director of the Center for Inclusion and Campus Involvement, commented on the importance of these sorts of programs on campus.

“Rollins is committed to creating an inclusive environment on campus and providing opportunities for students to engage in dialogue and learn about social justice,” she said. “If we’re truly preparing students to be global citizens and responsible leaders, diversity and inclusion are fundamental components.”

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