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A message from the Chief Diversity Officer

November brings the tangible autumnal colors that signal the changing of the seasons and the nearing end of the fall academic semester. It also marks the end of the Halloween season when many still struggle with the harm of cultural appropriation. As educators, we must continue to instruct students, family members and friends of the harmful effects of dressing and mocking other cultures.

National Native American Heritage Month is officially recognized in November. For Native people, this is more accurately recognized as Indigenous Peoples Heritage month. Members of the community will once again endure the celebration of another holiday that is not cherished by all Americans. While Thanksgiving represents a time for family to come together and express gratitude, the stories of Thanksgiving’s origins have little bearing on the true history, impact on Native people or the meaning of the holiday for most non-Native American youth. It is important to remember that, for Native people, Thanksgiving is a reminder of loss of freedom and the destruction of whole communities.

Therefore, as we continue to practice inclusion and equity in all that we do, it is vital to begin listening to Indigenous people and their perspectives of American history. Take a moment this month or during your family Thanksgiving gathering to learn a bit more about Indigenous people. There are 573 federally recognized tribes and several state recognized tribes. Recognize and honor indigenous tribes and lands that you are on (including the land on which UNC-Chapel Hill stands). Lastly, appreciate the culture of Indigenous people.

November is also a time to honor Veterans in our country. The original objective of Veterans Day was to honor those veterans from World War I. The day was initially known as Armistice Day, marking the cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In 1954 it was changed to Veterans Day, November 11th.

Veterans Day is a day not only to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country, but also to recognize those who continue to serve today. Native Americans have long participated in the U.S. military. In 2019, there were 142,972 single-race American Indian and Alaska Native veterans of the U.S. armed forces (Source: 2019 American Community Survey). It is also important that we continue to recognize that many of our veterans and service members are struggling with significant mental and physical health challenges, including anxiety and PTSD, as well as inequitable treatment and unemployment. I encourage you to learn more about how Carolina law students in the Military and Veterans Law Clinic are assisting former service members with upgrading their military discharge status or join the Purple Heart Ceremony which will take place on Nov. 4th at the School of Law.

Please continue to say “Thank you” to our military members for their service to our country and our democracy.

Sincerely,

Leah Cox, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion/
Chief Diversity Officer

 

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