KOKOMO, Ind. — Every year at Thanksgiving, Americans celebrate the story of the pilgrims, and the friendly Native Americans who helped them survive their first year in the New World.
But that’s not quite the whole story.
During November, Indiana University Kokomo provides opportunities to learn about the ancestry and traditions of the country’s original inhabitants, as part of Native American Heritage Month.
“It’s critically important to celebrate this history and this month,” said Kate Aguilar, coordinator of student life and campus diversity. “These are the first people to inhabit the area we now call the United States. Their descendants are still alive, and part of our history.”
The campus kicked off Native American Heritage month with a statement acknowledging and honoring the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Peoria, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi) and Myaamia (Miami) people, on whose ancestral homelands and resources IU Kokomo is built.
“We want to recognize them as part of our local history, our campus history, and our national history,” Aguilar said. “Their history is not separate from ours, it’s also American history, our history.”
It’s also an opportunity to separate myths about Native Americans from actual fact, she said, noting that she recommends the National Book Award-winning There, There by Tommy Orange, for a more accurate depiction.
“He talks about how people have an expectation of Native American people, how they look, how they dress, and how they act, when they actually are living among us,” she said. “He talks about what their experience is like today, and how we have to debunk the stereotypes. They are living in cities and attending schools, and doing all these things the mythology is saying they aren’t doing.”
As part of the commemoration, Student Life will host two virtual screenings of Indian Horse, followed by discussion, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, November 11. The 2017 drama, an adaptation of a novel by Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese, tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young Canadian First Nations boy who survives the Indian residential school system to become a star hockey player.
A link will be posted to the IUK Student Life Facebook page a half hour before each screening.
“There are tons of opportunities for students to get involved,” she said. “There are resources all around where you can raise your awareness and get connected, so you can be an ally. We’re recognizing our neighbors who live among us, and deserve our support and attention for issues unique to their communities.”