November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month, a time to honor and celebrate the vibrant cultures, histories, and contributions of Native Americans. This month and every month, it is important to not only acknowledge the past but also actively include and support indigenous communities, including during meetings, events, and incentive programs.
Including and Honoring Native American Cultures at Events
Incorporating cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in your event planning is essential. Ensure that you approach these ideas with genuine respect, authenticity, and humility. It is equally vital to involve and consult with Native American community leaders, elders, or representatives during the planning process. Their guidance and perspective will help create an event that acknowledges and honors Native cultures appropriately.
As a starting point, here are five meaningful ways to honor Native Americans at events:
1. Provide Land and Water Acknowledgements
Begin your event by acknowledging the land on which it is taking place. Before any speeches, performances, or activities commence, take a moment to acknowledge and honor the indigenous peoples who have stewardship over the land and the waters. It is your responsibility to research and learn about the specific tribes or nations that are native to the region.
This acknowledgment serves as a reminder of the enduring presence of Native Americans and their deep connection to the land. It also shows respect for their ongoing struggle for sovereignty, cultural preservation, and environmental sustainability. This interactive map can help identify local nations by geography. To learn more about how to appropriately provide land and water acknowledgements, read this guide from the National Environmental Education Foundation.
2. Support Native-owned Businesses
Seek out and actively support Native-owned businesses at your event, such as vendors, caterers, artisans, and performers. These enterprises play a crucial role in preserving cultural traditions, uplifting indigenous communities, and fostering economic self-sufficiency. Whether the business’ offerings directly relate to their indigenous culture or they’re simply providing a needed service and happen to be Native-owned, your support helps the local economy and can promote a greater understanding of Native American industries and their importance.
3. Highlight Traditional Native American Cuisine
Food often plays an important role in Native American cultures, so incorporating traditional cuisine into event menus is a meaningful and delicious way to celebrate those cultures. Collaborate with Native chefs or culinary experts to create a menu featuring dishes that reflect the diverse culinary traditions across local tribes. Ensure that the food is authentic and prepared with respect for traditional cooking methods and ingredients. Providing attendees with a taste of Native American cuisine will not only satisfy their taste buds but also foster a deeper appreciation for the culinary arts of indigenous communities.
4. Educate Attendees
Use your event as an opportunity to educate attendees about the history, struggles, and accomplishments of Native Americans. Organize educational workshops, panel discussions, or exhibitions that shed light on various aspects of indigenous culture, such as traditional art, music, language, or clothing. Partner with local tribal organizations, Native scholars, or cultural societies that can provide authentic and accurate information. Create informative displays or handouts that highlight important historical events, famous Native figures, or significant contributions made by indigenous communities. By raising awareness, you help fight stereotypes, dispel myths, and ensure that Native Americans and their culture and history are respected and valued.
5. Host Native American Artists and Performers
Engage with Native American artists and performers to bring an authentic and enriching experience to your event. Invite indigenous artists, musicians, dancers, or storytellers to share their talents and cultural expressions. This not only provides a platform to showcase their artistry but also fosters cultural exchange and understanding among event attendees. Collaborate with local tribal organizations, arts councils, or cultural centers to identify and connect with talented individuals or groups who can contribute to the event. By actively involving indigenous artists, you ensure that their voices and talents are celebrated and respected.
Prioritizing Education Over Entertainment
No matter how you choose to honor and celebrate Native American culture during your event, it is important to remember that indigenous peoples and practices do not exist for your entertainment. If you’re bringing in Native performers, chefs, or others, give them an opportunity to lead the conversation by introducing their work and explaining its history and meaning. Remember that attendees should walk away having learned something, not just observed or passively participated in something. This ensures your event is truly supportive, not just performative.
Native American Heritage Month is not just a time for celebration but also an opportunity to learn about, reflect on, and increase awareness of the rich tapestry of indigenous cultures that shape our nation’s history. Use this month as a step toward a more inclusive and understanding society, where the experiences and cultures of indigenous peoples are valued and celebrated year-round.
Sr. Marketing Strategist
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.