In November, I was asked to reflect upon the 2022 Fox Cities Reads featuring indigenous author Tommy Orange and his book There, There. November was National Native American Heritage Month, as well as a very painful reminder of a dark chapter in our nation’s history. While many of us with European ancestry were busy overeating with family on Nov. 24, it was a time of sorrow for many indigenous people. It is yet another reminder of the suppression of their voice, history, culture and perspective.
As my children and I drove to my library just before Thanksgiving to attend a corn husk doll program presented by one of our newest employees, Kim Cachowski, who also happens to be the 2022 Fox Cities Reads Tribal Liaison’s mother, I had a very real conversation with my 6- and 10-year-old about Thanksgiving as a holiday.
Every year, I get a bit deeper with them about what really happened to indigenous people in our country and how it is important that we acknowledge real history, not the romanticized version that so many of us were taught. I want my children to be responsible stewards of history and understand those in power are often the ones who script their own story and have it heard.
We need to recognize that the Fox Cities were Menominee, Ho-Chuck/Winnebago, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ and Myaamia land; that the consequence of colonialism came at the expense of indigenous people; that the fabric of our community is enhanced by their presence; and that we should all make a pledge to celebrate their talents, gifts and rich cultures as they continue to contribute to our history and future.
I am very proud to say that through my research on the 2022 Fox Cities Reads project, I learned more about local tribes, but also recognize that I still don’t know enough. But I am not alone in this and am proud to recap some of the wonderful programs hosted by other area libraries during November.
The Kimberly Public Library hosted a Cooking Demonstration with Oneida Chef Arlie Doxtator, Ho-Chunk Storyteller Andi Cloud Presents: People of the Big Voice, A Family Storytime and an Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifact Display. Appleton Public Library hosted Virtual Find Your Ancestors: Researching Native American Ancestors and No More Stolen Children, and Neenah Public Library is hosting History Program-Native American Heritage Month.
The Fox Cities Reads project was supported by a grant from the Community Vision Fund, formerly called the Bright Idea Fund. This fund preserves and enhances the quality of life in Calumet, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca counties and the Neenah-Menasha area of Winnebago County by awarding grants to charitable organizations working to make a difference in their communities.