The American Indian College Fund suggests that one of the ways to observe Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian Heritage Day, is to read a book about the history of the native people. Most people know very little about the “First Americans” – first to occupy our continent — and all of us could certainly stand to know more.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Subsequent presidents have issued similar proclamations, under various names reflecting shifting preferences, including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month” each year.
The observance offers an opportunity to explore topics in history and current affairs that many people know little about and have never studied, including the experiences of the Choctaw of Mississippi and the historic relationships between Native Americans and African Americans in the southeastern United States. Diversebooks.net offers a number of books that can serve as resources for classroom discussions and supplement other texts. Here are some selections from our publishers available at discount prices here on our website:
After Removal: The Choctaw in Mississippi, by Samuel J. Wells, $22.50 (List Price: $25) University of Mississippi Press, February 2004, ISBN: 9781578066841, pp. 240.
After signing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830, most Choctaws, more than 20,000, left Mississippi for resettlement in the Oklahoma Territory. They surrendered their lands as part of the U.S. government’s plan to remove Native Americans from the southeast. The Indian Removal Act passed by Congress on May 28, 1830, authorized President Andrew Jackson to negotiate with Indian tribes in the southern United States for their removal from their homelands to federal territory west of the Mississippi River. Outsiders were eager to gain access to land occupied by the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee nations. In Mississippi, thousands of Choctaw remained and merged into the rest of the population or slipped into oblivion, and scholars paid little attention to their fate. This book is the first to document the lives of those who stayed behind and kept remnants of their culture alive, eventually gaining federal recognition as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Also available on Diversebooks.net is The Choctaw before Removal, edited by Carolyn Keller Reeves, $22.50, (List price: $25), University of Mississippi Press, February 2004, ISBN: 9781578066858, pp. 256. This is a collection of essays about the history, culture and experiences of the Choctaw people before 1830.
Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to Emancipation, by Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. $18.70 (List price $22), ISBN 9781578063604, University of Mississippi Press, November 2001, ISBN 9781578063604, pp. 296.
This is a new edition documenting the interrelationship of two racial cultures in antebellum Florida and Oklahoma. Seminoles held slaves, but their system was unlike that of other slaveholders. The Seminoles often clashed with bounty hunters over ownership claims and even over who was free and who was not. Tensions mounted during the Second Seminole War, when many blacks united with Seminoles fighting against the United States. Blacks and Seminoles were later sent to Oklahoma together as part of the federal government’s “removal” project. The fortunes of the two groups remained intertwined, but their relationships were conflicted as others sought to re-enslave or control free blacks. After the Civil War, many blacks were adopted into the Seminole nation. In a preface to this edition, the author explains the controversy over their role. (Reprinted from the DiverseBooks blog for June 4, 2013.)
The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735, by James F. Barnett Jr., $36 (List Price: $40) University of Mississippi Press, November 2007, ISBN 9781578069880, pp. 224.
This history of the Natchez Indians is taken from accounts of Spanish, English and French explorers, missionaries, soldiers, and colonists, and the archaeological record. With a strategic location on the Mississippi River, the Natchez Indians were central to the course of René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle’s expedition in the 17th century. He met the Natchez on his journey, and the encounter led to sickness among and eventually the annihilation of the Natchez. This work is considered the most complete and detailed history to date of the Natchez. (Reprinted from Diversebooks blog Nov. 3, 2014.)