As I reflect on Native American Heritage Month, overall, I enjoy it. This is a month that brings an elevated level of happiness and pride in my culture. It is a time to increase visibility of Native people and highlight our community strengths and challenges. I love to rock my mocs, wear ribbon skirts and beaded earrings. I also enjoy talking about our history, culture and communities. As the Princess of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, I often get asked to make presentations in my traditional regalia. During Native American Heritage Month, these invites increase exponentially. It often feels like this is one of the few times our country values tribal people, our cultures and our history. However, what many fail to recognize is that Native American people are not only our histories, we exist in contemporary times, and we have a bright future ahead of us.
I believe that every month should be Native American Heritage month and everyday should be Indigenous People’s day
As a young Native woman living in a colonized, Western society, this month means so much to me. It goes beyond being Native American. This month shows that we are still here and we will be here for generations to come. It proves that our ancestors did not sacrifice their lives and homes for nothing. I believe that every month should be Native American Heritage month and everyday should be Indigenous People’s day. That is how I choose to live my life. Each day, I live traditionally, praying with our medicines and singing in our languages. I find what my mom calls “teachable moments” to insert accurate information about Native American people on topics from our sovereignty to our kinship systems. I am also dedicated to thinking and learning through an Indigenous lens. I try to think about everything I learn in school from the perspective of my people.
Being a student at the University of Denver, with its traumatic history and ideals, makes this month even more meaningful. The founder of the University of Denver took part in the Sand Creek massacre mere days before he took the land upon which my university sits. Countless Cheyenne and Arapaho people were murdered and cut into pieces to be shown as tokens in town. This is only one of many genocidal acts perpetrated against Native People. And like many other tragedies, we must never forget. Every Native student at the University of Denver is a living example of Native American resilience. We remain on the land colonizers tried to separate us from. As I walk through campus, I am reminded that the blood of my ancestors is in this land and that I owe it to them to not only survive but the thrive.
During this month and every day, we must educate ourselves and each other, even if that means facing uncomfortable truths.
While this month brings our people joy and pride, we cannot put aside the real reason we get a month dedicated to our people. Our ancestors suffered great traumas and genocide for us to be where we are today. I also think that Native American Heritage month is a time for learning. Some people are unfamiliar with who we are and our history. During this month and every day, we must educate ourselves and each other, even if that means facing uncomfortable truths.
About the Author:
Isabella Fridia is a freshman attending the University of Denver, majoring in Physiology in Health and Disease. She dreams of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy to promote wellness within tribal communities by incorporating both traditional and Western medicine. Currently, Isabella is the reigning Wichita and Affiliated Tribes Princess. In addition to serving as tribal royalty, Isabella has many other local and national leadership positions including serving as a Tribal Youth Resource Center Ambassador, a Vice Presidential Intern for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, We R Native Youth Ambassador, and Center for Native Youth Ambassador. Isabella has presented nationally, providing the youth perspective on Climate Change, Juvenile Justice, Culture as Prevention, Neurodiversity in the workplace and various other topics. In her free time, Isabella loves watching The Office, attending powwows and shopping.
Isabella's mother, Tasha Fridia, with Friends of the Children organization, is one of Voices for Healthy Kids' Strategic Advisory Committee members.