!! Important Dates !!
Independence Day- July 4th
In the 1880s, the U.S. government developed what has come to be called the Religious Crimes Code—regulations that prohibited American Indian ceremonial life. Enforced on reservations, the code banned Indian dances and feasts, disrupted religious practices, and destroyed or confiscated sacred objects, under threat of imprisonment and the withholding of treaty rations. For 50 years, Indian spiritual ceremonies were held in secret or ceased to exist. In response to this policy of cultural and religious suppression, some tribes saw the 4th of July and the commemoration of American independence a chance to continue their own important ceremonies. Indian superintendents and agents justified allowing reservations to conduct ceremonies on the 4th as a way for Indians to learn patriotism to the United States and to celebrate the country's ideals.
That history is why a disproportionate number of American Indian tribal gatherings take place on or near the 4th of July and are often the social highlights of the year. Over time these cultural ceremonies became tribal homecomings. American Indian veterans in particular were welcomed home as modern-day followers of warrior traditions. The Navajo Tribe of Arizona and Pawnee of Oklahoma are two examples of tribes that use the 4th of July to honor their tribal veterans. Tribal veterans’ songs and flag songs are sung. Before the Reservation Era, when most Indians saw the American flag coming toward their villages and camps, it symbolized conflict, death, and destruction. But more than 12,000 American Indians served during World War I, and after the war, the American flag began to be given a prominent position at American Indian gatherings, especially those held on the 4th of July. This symbol of patriotism and national unity is carried into powwow and rodeo arenas today.
National Bison Month
July is National Bison Month – an opportunity to celebrate these large, beautiful creatures. In 2016, the American bison was named the national mammal of the U.S. While we are lucky enough to now have thousands of bison roaming North America, this wasn’t always the case, and the species represents a true comeback story, embedded with history, culture and conservation. 200 years ago, an estimated 30 to 60 million bison existed, but by the late 1800s, the American bison was on the verge of extinction. Less than 1,000 bison remained after the destructive impact of hunting and habitat loss. It was the settlers who began moving into Native American land during this time that slaughtered millions of bison for food and sport. The settlers also cleared the land for their own livestock and farms, taking away from the bison’s habitat. The species’ demise was quick and disastrous. Not only did it effect the ecosystem, but it deprived Native Americans of their most important natural asset. The photo above shows how Native Americans honored the Bison by using all parts of the animal and leaving no waste.
Don't Step on a Bee Day- July 10th
With modern farming techniques, diversification of crops, and industrialization of processes, bees are running out of food and spaces to form their hives or even find shelter. Here is where Native Americans, who understand why bees are beneficial, and the importance of bee species to sustain the ecosystem, come in to save the day. Let’s take a look at the most relevant initiatives currently happening in the USA by Native American Tribes.
Cherokee Nation Beehives
The Cherokee Nation’s heirloom garden is home to more than 200 traditional plants as well as 26 different crops. These plants have been used by the Cherokee people for hundreds of years for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. As a part of keeping this holy place green and lush, the Cherokee people received new hives from the Sponsor-a-Hive program. These can provide shelter for over 4,000 local bee species to proliferate. These local pollinators prefer local species to feed on; therefore, it is a win-win situation.
The Ioway Bee Farm
The Ioway Bee Farm is an initiative by the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. It was founded in 2016 after the tribe followed the idea of the tribal leader and beekeeper and purchased a single hive. By 2019, the operation had grown to 54 hives and over 2 million bees. With that infrastructure, the farm produced over 1,100 pounds of honey per year.
As a side effect of this lucrative endeavor, the Iowa Tribe managed to enhance the results of their regenerative agriculture techniques. Plus, through social media exposure, sales went up and the hive count is still on growth helping honeybees and local bees grow their communities too.
National Moon Day- July 20th
On July 20, 1971, National Moon Day was proclaimed to honor the anniversary of man's first moon landing. The moon has long been important to Native Americans and is also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Moon Clans include the Mohave, Ottawa, and Pueblo tribes. The Moon is an important clan crest on the Northwest Coast and can often be found carved on totem poles.
The early Native Americans did not record time by using the months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Many tribes kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months, although there was much variability. For some tribes, the year contained 4 seasons and started at a certain season, such as spring or fall. Others counted 5 seasons to a year. Some tribes defined a year as 12 Moons, while others assigned it 13. Certain tribes that used the lunar calendar added an extra Moon every few years, to keep it in sync with the seasons. A couple examples of the moons Native Americans named were the Full Worm Moon (in March) and the Full Buck Moon (in July). The Full Worm Moon marks when the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow, and the annual tapping of maple trees begins. During the Full Buck Moon, bucks begin to grow new antlers. This full Moon was also known as the Thunder Moon, because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.
Book of the Month- Moonstick: The Seasons of Sioux
In this beautifully written story by acclaimed author Eve Bunting, a young boy comes of age under the thirteen moons of the Sioux year. With each notch in his father's moon-counting stick, the boy marvels at the world around him, observing the sometimes subtle, sometimes remarkable changes in the seasons and in his own tribe's way of living. With rich and carefully researched paintings by artist John Sandford, Moonstick: The Seasons of the Sioux is a glorious picture book about one boy's journey toward manhood.
July is National Corn Month
Corn, also known as Maize, was an important crop to the Native American Indian. Eaten at almost every meal, this was one of the Indians main foods. Corn was found to be easily stored and preserved during the cold winter months. Often the corn was dried to use later. Dried corn was made into hominy by soaking corn in water until the kernels split open. These would be drained and fried over a fire.
American Indians would also ground corn into corn meal. They would use mortars and pestles made from either rock or wood. Corn was placed into the hollowed-out mortar and then by pounding the corn with the pestle, this would grind it up into a powdery form. Corn meal could then be used for cornbread, corn syrup, or corn pudding. Often corn meal was mixed with beans to make succotash or to thicken other foods. The husks from the corn cob were also used. Braided, the husks would become masks, sleeping mats, baskets and even cornhusk dolls. Shoes were sometimes made of corn husks. All that would be left was the corncob. These were used to make darts, to burn as fuel, or made into ceremonial rattling sticks. Corncobs were tied to the end of a stick, to dangle and rattle against other corncobs. Corn came in a variety of colors, such as white, red, blue, and yellow. Most people think of Indian corn as the corn with a variety of colors on one cob.
Native American Corn Cake Recipe
One of the most common recipes throughout history using corn is the Johnnycake, or corncake/hoecake. It was shared with the original setters by the Pawtuxet. Over the years this cornmeal flatbread has been baked in an open fire among the ashes, in ovens and over a flame or stove in a cast-iron skillet. Make some together during your study of the 13 Colonies.
1 ¼ cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
½-1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups boiling water
2 TBSP bacon drippings or oil
Combine all the dry ingredients.
Gradually add the boiling water to the dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon until moistened. The consistency should be thick (instead of runny) but should still be able to slide off the spoon. You may need more or less boiling water to achieve this consistency.
Heat oil or bacon drippings in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan. You don’t want the cakes to stick.
Spoon the batter into the pan, using one large spoonful for each cake.
Once the edges begin to brown and become firm, flip over to cook the other side. If needed, you can add a couple of drops of oil to the top of the cake before turning it over. Cook until the other side is done. You can press them down to keep an even thickness.
Move them to a platter.