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Native American Heritage Month

Restorative Practice has deep roots in indigenous culture. Many aspects of restorative practice implementation and/or restorative justice originate from tribal ritual, ceremonies, and traditions that honor what is now considered sacred land. However, Native Americans did not always receive the recognition they deserve in this country. In fact, Native Americans were and continue to be oppressed because of their traditions. While the government is taking steps to acknowledge some of the loss, including land, experienced by Native Americans through laws and legislation, there is historical trauma that is invisible to the human eye.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This month includes the celebration of Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiian, and affiliates island communities. The origins of this nationally syndicated holiday month began right here in Western NY! Dr. Arthur C. Parker, who at the time was the Director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY, proposed “First American Indian Day” which would be observed on the second Saturday in the month of May beginning in 1916. Mr. Parker was an American-Indian of the Seneca Nation. There was not a general consensus on which day to celebrate “First American Indian Day” considering some states observed the fourth Friday in September.

This year, the Department of Indian Affairs selected the following theme: “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity.” In the United States, there are 5 million people who identify as American Indian in the United States (HHS). The U.S. also has about 56.2 million acres of land for various Indian tribes and about 326 reservations to-date.

Reflecting on the experience of Native Americans in this country, the celebration of Thanksgiving has become decolonized by referring to it as “The Day of Mourning.” Remember the legacy of European colonization and conquering of aboriginal people for Westward expansion or Manifest Destiny. We remember the Trail of Tears that led to the displacement of countless Native Americans in this month of November. We celebrate Native Americans who have contributed tremendously to American culture as we know it today. Moreover, their traditions of indigenous peacekeeping inform our Westernized restorative healing practices including, but not limited to conflict-coaching, family group concerning, and restorative conferencing.

Thank you, Native Americans, for restoration and we wish you peace, love, and harmony in this month of November.

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