Although events and celebrations this year are quieter everywhere because of COVID-19, Native American Heritage Month is still active in the American Indian Center in Springfield.
The American Indian Center began celebrating Native American Indian Heritage Month this year with a potluck dinner for members and guests that followed social distancing guidelines, according to board member Valerie Falcon.
November was officially established as the national Native American Indian Heritage Month 30 years ago by former President George H. W. Bush. Although Missouri has no federally established reservations, there is an active presence of some parts of some Native American communities (but not all) in Springfield by groups and establishments such as the American Indian Center.
“It’s about all we can do,” Falcon said. “We don’t want anyone to get sick or be exposed. We hope to resume activities by Christmas, but the center doesn’t have any announced events yet.”
Falcon is also a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and travels frequently for Native American events across the country, including cultural displays and festivals.
Falcon and the other American Indian Center members have celebrated their heritage in the past with activities such as woodcraft lessons, movie nights, potlucks and community dinners. The main events for heritage months in the past have been pow wows and social dance.
Many other local Native Americans also travel as pow wow dancers, Falcon said.
“We want our kids to get to know other kids within the Native American community so they can have lifelong friends,” Falcon said.
April Hale, a member of the Navajo Tribe, views the Native American Heritage Month as a way to remind the mainstream that her culture is still here.
“When Natives gather, we gather as families. Even extended relatives are close; it’s a time to reflect on community as a collective indigenous people,” Hale said.
The American Indian Center has approximately 50 members but welcomes non-Native Americans to participate in events and share their culture, Falcon said.
Members of the American Indian Center range from 9 years old to 90 and include members from tribes across the nation, including Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Lakota, Navajo and others.
Local events Falcon participates in through the center include cultural workshops and instructive lessons on how to build a fire and craft with beads.
Falcon said the American Indian Center has monthly meetings in Springfield and is looking into establishing an office once circumstances permit.
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