Monthly Archives: November 2016
By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department
Native American Heritage Month (also known as “National American Indian Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) hasn’t been around for very long. Although Native Americans have resided on the continent for approximately 12,000 years, it wasn’t until November 1990 that President George H. W. Bush declared November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month”.
Honoring the month
Many of us are not exposed to Native American culture and do not know much about Native people, their way of life, and the issues they face. In order to honor this month, I’ve compiled some facts and figures, as well as answers to questions some of us may have about Native Americans and their culture. This list is far from complete, and I encourage you to discover what you’ve always wanted to learn about Native people and their history.
Below you will also find ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month for yourself, plus Fiction and Non-Fiction books from Native American authors – and a few movies, too. All titles are available at our library, so get to celebrating!
Census information as of 2014
Population: American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 2% of the US population (5.4 million people), including those that are more than one race.
Race: Of the 5.4 million, only 48% are fully American Indian or Alaska Natives. The other 52% are American Indian or Alaska Natives in combination with at least one other race.
Reservations and Tribes: As of 2015 there were 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations and 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes.
Income: The median income for single-race Native American and Alaska Native households was $37,227 (compared to $53,657 for the United States as a whole).
Poverty: Single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives had a poverty rate of 28.3%, the highest rate of any race group in America.
Higher Education: 13.9% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives, ages 25 and over, had a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
Language: 26.8% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives ages 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.
More interesting facts here
FAQ about Native Americans
Are all Native Americans considered US citizens?
- In 1924, all Native Americans who were born in the US were granted citizenship, although not all states allowed them to vote until 1957.
Do all Native Americans live on reservations?
- According to the 2010 census, only 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands. Many Natives have left reservations seeking jobs and higher education.
Do any Native Americans still live on their original tribal land?
- There are some reservations that are located on a tribe’s original land, while others were created by the Federal government for the tribes forced from their land.
Do tribes make their own laws, or live under the laws of the US?
- Federally recognized tribes have a sovereign, government-to-government relationship with the United States. They legally govern themselves aside from some restrictions from Congress, federal courts, and treaties with the U.S. They are able to form their own governments, make and enforce laws, tax, provide licenses and regulate activities, and more. They are unable to print their own currency, start wars, or take part in foreign relations.
What is life like on a reservation?
- Living on a reservation has been compared by some to living in a Third World country. For many there are few jobs, a lack of employment opportunity, and inadequate and substandard housing including a lack of running water, phones, and electricity.
Can anyone visit a reservation?
- All reservations have their own laws and therefore different policies on visiting. Make sure to contact the proper tribe to ask about their policy and be aware of etiquette if given permission to visit. Here is a link to the Tribal Leaders Directory that provides contact information for each tribe. Here is a link to some tips on visiting a reservation.
Do Native Americans still speak their tribe’s language?
- Before European influence, it is estimated that there were over 100,000 different Native languages. Today, over 70% of Native Americans say they only speak English at home. Navajo is the most-spoken Native language, at 150,000 people.
What is the history behind Native American names?
- This is a fascinating topic that cannot be fully represented by a short answer. The brief version is that many Native Americans have a complex naming tradition. Their names are said to speak to an individual’s personality and even change over the course of their lives.
What was the Native American population before 1492?
- No one knows for sure. Not many population records were kept at all during that time period. All scientists have to go on are historical writings, and even then they can only guess. At the low end, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber estimated 8.4 million. At the high end, anthropologist Henry Dobyn estimated 112.5 million. What almost everyone can agree on is that the Native population decreased significantly after 1492.
Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
- In 2015, Huffington Post published an article that interviewed the ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the first tribe to make contact with the Massachusetts Pilgrims of 1620. This is a quote from their current tribal president and chairman on how he celebrates the holiday: “We are Americans as well, and so even today, I sit down at Thanksgiving with family.” He goes on to note that Thanksgiving is equally a time to reflect on the tragedies they suffered then and ones they continue to suffer today. So while many consider it a day to give thanks, it is also seen as a national day of mourning.
What are some current issues facing Native Americans today?
- The Dakota Access Pipeline has been in the news recently. The construction of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation may potentially threaten their water supply. The Sioux also say the pipeline would disrupt sacred land.
- Click here for a Smithsonian article about the current controversy, and here to visit the Standing Rock Sioux website.
How can I find out if I have Native American ancestors?
- If you believe you may have Native American ancestry, here is a guide provided by the Office of Public Affairs – Indian Affairs on how to begin genealogical research as well as tribal enrollment information.
- Visit us at the Williamson County Public Library to get free access to Ancestry.com with your library card.
How can I participate in Native American Heritage Month?
- Click here for some creative ideas on how to celebrate.
- Read a book or watch a movie – all available @WCPL!
- The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens (978.02 COZ)
- Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (770.92 EGA)
- Empire of the Summer Moon : Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne (978.004974572 GWY)
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (970.011 MAN)
- With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her People’s History by Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun (973.04975 BET)
- On the REZ by Ian Frazier (978.366 FRA)
- Killing Custer by James Welch (973.82 WEL)
- Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
- House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (F MOM)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA F ALE)
- Smoke Signals (DVD SMOKE)
- Dances with Wolves (DVD DANCES)
- The Last of the Mohicans (DVD LAST)
- Longmire – TV series (DVD LONGMIRE)
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – (DVD BURY)
- More Suggested Reading:
Other Resources for Native American History Month
- Click here for audio and video resources from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and more.
It is impossible to accurately represent an entire people in a single blog while retaining the real essence, beauty, and complexity of their culture. I urge everyone who is interested in any aspect of Native American life to read more, learn more, and attempt to truly understand the lives and history of America’s Native people.
Check out the links above as well as the blog references section for a wealth of information.
By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder treason and plot…”
Who is Guy Fawkes and why do they burn his effigies in England every 5th of November? I mean — that seems a bit harsh. To be fair, the modern-day celebration is more about fireworks and parades, which is far more humane than what actually happened to Guy Fawkes in the aftermath of November 5th, 1605.
Some History: A few months before the fateful November 5th a group of men, Guy Fawkes among them, were plotting to kill King James I of England. Why, you ask, would they want to do such a thing?
The hatred of the monarchy began with the throne’s predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I. Under Elizabeth’s reign it was illegal for Catholics like Fawkes and his co-conspirators to celebrate mass or marry according to Catholic rites. Maybe if the Pope hadn’t excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570 she would not have gone to such lengths, which included killing dozens of priests.
After the reign of Elizabeth I ended in 1603 Catholics in England had hope that King James I would be different. His mother, Mary Queen of Scotts, was Catholic, and it was said that his wife converted to Catholicism. It was even rumored that King James I would convert as well. Unfortunately for the Catholic population, King James I treated them just as poorly as the former Queen had. He publically condemned the Catholic religion, referred to it as a superstition, and ordered all Catholic priests to leave England. And so, a group of Catholic dissidents decided to blow him up.
But how do you go about blowing up the King of England? In what would later be called the “Gunpowder Plot”, Guy Fawkes and 12 others planned to blow him up indirectly.
The Plot: Many people believe that Guy Fawkes was the mastermind behind the Gunpowder Plot. In reality, he’s probably so popular because he was caught in the act of carrying it out. The real leader and creator of the plot was Robert Catesby. His idea was to kill the king, kidnap his daughter, and marry her off to a Catholic to restore their rights in the kingdom. In order to do that the current regime had to be destroyed.
Using the alias John Johnson, Fawkes was chosen to pose as caretaker of a cellar located directly below the House of Lords. The group had managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar and would wait until the 5th of November when Parliament was in session for Fawkes to light the fuse.
The Mysterious Letter: To this day no one knows who sent the letter that unraveled the Gunpowder Plot. The letter advised its recipient to avoid the House of Lords, which was handed over to authorities and spurred them to search Westminster Palace. They found Fawkes in his cellar, along with the barrels of gunpowder and a match. That was all of the evidence they needed to capture Fawkes and torture him until (after two grueling days) he revealed the names of his co-conspirators. Four were killed while resisting arrest; the others were tried and executed for their treason.
The Punishment: Being found guilty of treason in seventeenth-century England was one of the last things you would ever want to happen. Fawkes was to be hung, drawn, and quartered after having his stomach opened before his eyes. Fawkes, a rebel until his death, jumped off the hangman’s platform and died from a broken neck. Although he saved himself from his horrible punishment, they still quartered him to be sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to potential traitors.
Unintentional Consequences: The Gunpowder Plot had not only failed, it backfired. King James I worked even harder to make sure Catholics knew he, not the Pope, had authority over them. The king required that every citizen take an oath saying just that. Catholics in England were not fully liberated from legal restrictions including the right to vote, practice law, or serve in the military until the 19th century.
The Celebration: The king and parliament had narrowly escaped being blown to pieces. In 1606 they would officially commemorate November 5th as a day of thanks and celebration. Back then, there was still an anti-Catholic atmosphere surrounding the festivities. They would burn effigies of the Pope and Guy Fawkes. They also gathered for parades, set off fireworks, and made huge bonfires.
Today’s Celebrations: Britain still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day every 5th of November. Although the anti-Catholic sentiment is nowhere near as wide-spread, some groups still burn effigies of the 1605 Pope in keeping with tradition. The town of Lewes is particularly noted for burning effigies, including the Pope, Guy Fawkes, and current political figures. Different towns celebrate in different ways, but among the celebrations you will find burning tar barrels, seriously big bonfires, fireworks, torches, costumes, and members of bonfire societies leaping through open flames. Not an event for the faint of heart.
The Mask: Americans might not know Guy Fawkes from the 5th of November plot, but from the Guy Fawkes masks used by protestors to protect their identity. The graphic novel and film V for Vendetta used the mask while overthrowing a suppressive government in future dystopian England. What inspired protestors to use it in real-life situations? The illustrator of the graphic novel, David Lloyd, says it best, “It’s a great symbol of protest for anyone who sees tyranny.”
Many groups have used Guy Fawkes’ face as a way to protect their identity while protesting against what they consider to be tyrannical establishments. From the hactivist group Anonymous to Egyptian protestors during the Arab Spring movement, these masks have become a symbol of anti-establishment protest.
Guy Fawkes may have lost the battle for Catholic rights in 17th century England, but his face has come to serve as a symbol of protest throughout the world.
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/bonfire-night-why-do-we-celebrate-with-firework-displays-who-was/ – 10 unknown facts