Native American heritage carries on after end of memorial month

On Oct. 30, President Barack Obama proclaimed November Native American Heritage Month. Though November has already ended, Native Americans living here in Ohio cannot turn off their heritage.

Before the 1600s and before the settlers set foot on Ohio grounds, the land was already inhabited by Native American tribes. Some of these tribes were the Shawnee, the Delaware, the Miami, the Ottawa, and the Wyandots. According to Ohio History Central, the database of the Ohio Historical Society, in 1974, Gen. Anthony Wayne defeated a majority of the Ohio Indian tribes in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The following year, the Native tribes signed the Treaty of Greensville, giving up a majority of their lands. Between the years of 1830 to 1850, the tribes were sent west to such states as Kansas and Oklahoma.

In present-day America, many Native Americans still reside on the reservations they were placed on all those years ago.

‘Indian reservations are among the poorest in the country,’ said Billy Stratton, professor of Ethnic and Native American studies. ‘Right now, there are approximately 565 federally recognized tribes.’

Stratton said those tribes that are recognized have an active relationship with the government that grants them rights such as health and education.

Many Native Americans in the past conformed to American culture to survive. Stratton said there was a lot of assimilation as Native Americans began moving off the reservations and marrying people of other races.

‘Anywhere you go you will find people who have some Native American blood in them. It’s only recently become cool to have an ethnic background,’ said Lynda Dee Dixon, professor of interpersonal communication and chair of Department of Communication.

Because of the assimilation into American culture, Native Americans are now forced to prove their heritage.

‘Native Americans have to have a certificate that proves they are Native American to gain their rights,’ Stratton said.

Dixon, who is of Cherokee descent, finds this situation very upsetting.

‘We have no voice as far as politics because of how old this state is and its history,’ she said.

The University Native American Unity Council exists for these reasons. The council works with students and community members to educate others about Native American culture and issues. Dixon is the faculty advisor of the council.

‘We hold annual seminars and pow-wows in November,’ she said.

Stratton said the purpose of his class to educate students.

‘I think the most important thing is education. As long as people can dismiss [Native Americans], it’ll never improve,’ he said. ‘Racism comes back to lack of education.”