Sen. John Thune
When Thanksgiving approaches each year, I’m reminded of the kindness and generosity Native Americans extended to the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock nearly 400 years ago. With the help of Native Americans, Pilgrims learned how to cultivate corn, where to hunt and fish, how to extract sap from maple trees, and many other skills that helped these early settlers survive and prosper.
While each tribe has its own unique set of customs, traditions, and language, it seems like the common thread among tribes is an enormous sense of generosity. In South Dakota, the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people have taught us that family should be at the center of life, relationships are more precious than any material gain, and standing up for what we believe in is an important quality in life.
While South Dakota is one of the few states that celebrates Native American Day rather than Columbus Day, I don’t think one day is enough to honor their contributions to our state and nation. That’s why I’m a proud cosponsor of a recently passed congressional resolution recognizing November as National Native American Heritage Month. November is designated each year as the month to reflect on Native American sacrifices, contributions, history, and shaping of America. And as South Dakotans know, we have plenty of that to celebrate across the state.
As South Dakotans, we have the unique opportunity to witness and learn firsthand about the authentic and rich cultures of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota ways. Attending a powwow or visiting a tribal community are great examples. Some of the earliest tribal traditions of song and dance are displayed throughout the state, and memorials like the Crazy Horse monument will forever remind us of the legacy of the courageous Lakota warrior.
Just recently, Dignity, a breathtaking statue of a Native American woman with a starquilt draped over her shoulders, was unveiled, and according to the sculptor, it’s a tribute to “the pride and strength and durability of the native cultures.” And the Lakota Nation Invitational — where sports fans have gathered to see some of our best Native youth display their incredible athletic talent for more than 40 years — is a favorite event of mine.
I hope all South Dakotans take time this November to reflect on the numerous contributions Native Americans have made to the rich heritage of our state. We have a lot to celebrate, so be sure to get out there and take advantage of these opportunities.