By Mary Torres, Special to the Star
November has been designated as Native American Heritage Month. What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose. On October 30, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation designating November 2020 as National Native American Heritage Month.
The proclamation states “During National Native American Heritage Month, we honor the storied legacy of American Indians and Alaska Natives in our Nation. Their cherished legacy, rich cultures, and heroic history of military services inspire us all. This month, as we recommit to supporting Native American Tribes and people, we resolve to work side-by-side with their leaders to secure stronger, safer communities and preserve their sacred heritage for future generations.” Further, President Trump writes, “I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities and to celebrate November 27, 2020, as Native American Heritage Day.”
This year’s theme is “Resilient and Enduring: We Are Native People.” Many observances and celebrations will be virtual his year due to COVID-19. The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Native American Heritage Month. This Web portal (https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/) is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Locally, the CHAPS Program (Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools Program, UTRGV) has done extensive research into the Native American Peoples of South Texas and published a book in 2014 by the same name, edited by Bobbie L. Lovett, Juan L. González, Roseann Bacha-Garza, and Russell K. Skowronek. This book is available for download at https://www.utrgv.edu/chaps/ under Quick Links for “Native American Peoples of South Texas.” You might also find other interesting topics/subjects to explore at this website.
For many people, Native American ancestry is difficult to prove. There are countless stories of Grandma being an Indian Princess which may or may not be true. Popular DNA websites such as Ancestry.com will tell you in its “Ethnicity Estimate” whether or not you have a percentage of “Indigenous America” DNA and the probable areas of origin, but they don’t identify a specific Tribe. Another book that might be useful in your research is “Native American Cultures of South Texas and Northern Mexico,” by Alonso Marroqin Perales, Ph.D. You can also learn about Texas place names related to Native American peoples at thc.texas.gov/texas-indians-and-texas-place-names.
The RGV Byliners, a local writers group, and the Harlingen Public Library will host the monthly Poetry Night virtually on Tuesday, November 17 from 6-7:30 p.m. The Byliners are waiving membership fees until they can meet face-to-face and everyone is welcome to join the meeting. ZOOM Link is at https://rgvbylinersocialme.wixsite.com/mysite-1/contact-Valley Byliners.
The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum and the Rio Grande Valley Museum Association are working to keep traditions alive! You’re invited to participate in the annual “Christmas Tree Extravaganza” by decorating a tree or wreath for display. Unfortunately this year there won’t be the customary reception with tamales and all the other goodies, but visitors will be welcome to come by and view the exhibit during regular museum hours. You can register for this year’s event in person at the museum at 2425 Boxwood St.; by phone at 956-216-4901, or through the museum’s Facebook link. For more information please email email@example.com.