Honoring the Original Inhabitants of Our Nation

By Lauren Eldridge | November 9, 2021

Originally published in the November issue of the Notes on Antiracism, Justice, and Equity newsletter.

Lauren Jones
Lauren Jones

Since 1990, the U.S. has designated November as Native American Heritage Month (also known as National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) to honor the original inhabitants of our nation and their descendants. This month is an opportunity for us to recognize and learn about the history, rich culture, and life-sustaining knowledge of Indigenous communities. We owe much to the tribal communities that have experienced centuries of oppression and broken promises leading to generations of poverty, incarceration, and other poor outcomes.

This year, we are commemorating Native American Heritage Month in several ways. The University of Minnesota recently announced an expansion of the Minnesota Native American Promise Tuition program, giving undergraduates from Minnesota tribes access to free or discounted tuition. In the School of Public Health (SPH), we will be holding events to learn more about land acknowledgments (see below for information about the new SPH-specific land acknowledgement) and indigenizing public health, meaning to adapt public health to the ways and customs of those who first lived here and cared for the land. In addition, the Public Health Administration and Policy MPH American Indian scholarship program, launched last summer, continues to support Indigenous students.

While these milestones are exciting and should be celebrated, there is still work to be done. Scholarships and acknowledgements do not erase or repair the damage inflicted by colonization, displacement, or genocide. As a school, we will continue to look for ways to partner with and support Indigenous people and communities. We invite you all to continue this journey with us, learning, unlearning, deconstructing, and rebuilding a better, more just future.

Toward justice,

Lauren Jones
Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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