As we enter the month of November, the promise of democracy is at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Over the past several weeks, many of us have exercised our constitutional right to vote. Now, we must await the election results on both a local and national level, which may take weeks or even months. You may consider participating in one of the “Post-Election 2020” series events, during which panels of faculty experts in law and politics will hold non-partisan discussions to address the aftermath of this election.
The United States is a country with a wealth of diversity, so it also seems fitting that as we enter this month, we reflect upon the role that Indigenous communities have played in influencing the development of American democratic theories, institutions, and values.
November is National American Indian Heritage Month (also known as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month). In 1990, President George H. W. Bush first declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. In 1994, a proclamation was issued to include Native American Heritage, National Indian and Alaska Native Heritage as part of the month’s observance. Since that time, the month has been observed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and nationally as a way to recognize the significant contributions to our democracy and the rich, diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Indigenous people.
The University Office for Diversity and Inclusion also recognizes that our campus sits on the land of the Occaneechi, Shakori, Eno, and Sissipahaw peoples.
The state of North Carolina has been home to many Indigenous peoples at various points in time, including the tribes/nations of Bear River/Bay River, Cape Fear, Catawba, Chowanoke, Coree/Coraline, Creek, Croatan, Eno, Hatteras, Keyauwee, Machapunga, Moratoc, Natchez, Neusiok, Pamlico, Shakori, Sara/Cheraw, Sissipahaw, Sugaree, Wateree, Weapemeoc, Woccon, Yadkin, and Yeopim. Today, the state recognizes eight tribes: Coharie, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Saponi, Haleiwa Saponi, Waccamaw Siouan, Sappony, and the Eastern Band Cherokee.
Carolina is proud to be the home of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff who bring their vibrant cultures to our University, enhancing our community’s very fabric through history, language, art, music, dance, and scholarship. In honor of National American Indian Heritage Month, the UNC American Indian Center will be sponsoring a series of events throughout the month.
I encourage you to connect, engage, participate, and learn more about Indigenous cultures and histories.
Sibby Anderson Thompkins, PhD
Special Advisor to the Provost and Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion/
Interim Chief Diversity Officer