A Riverton High School Student appeared before the Riverton City Council this past Tuesday to thank the Mayor and Council for the proclamation the city issued for Native American Heritage Month. Jazmine Wildcat’s comments, in their entirety, are copied below:
“Mr Mayor and members of the City Council,”
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor for proclaiming November as Native American Heritage Month. Even though such a proclamation may seem irrelevant and inconsequential to some, I’m here to say that even something that seems so small can make a big impact. There are many times that me, as a Native person, struggled to get people to understand our heritage and the path that my ancestors walked for me to be here today.
“My family walked the Trail of Tears. My family survived the Sand Creek Massacre. My grandma was relocated and survived attempted assimilation. It was because of their strength and resiliency that I am here today. Native people make up about 2% of the countries population and there are 573 federally recognized tribes. Each tribe is different and unique in every way. We have all survived similar atrocities to get to where we are today.
“Because of that strength, we have persevered. Our warriors serve in the military at a rate of five time the national average. We have Natives saving lives as doctors, playing professional sports, running successful businesses and others are changing the world through their respective work. Sure, we have our struggles too. 4 out of five Native women will be victims of violence and 10 times likely to be a victim of murder. Our suicide rate is 3.5 times the national average and our substance abuse rate is the highest of any other population.
“It is the negative things that you hear so often in the media. But that is what Native American Heritage Month is all about. It celebrates our rich and diverse cultures, the traditions, the histories and it celebrates the many contributions of Native people. Proclamations such as these shows us that we are being seen and respected. It helps educate everyone within our community and encourages them to learn about their neighbors and fellow community members and it brings awareness to the unique challenges that our Native people have faced historically and today. It’s shows our perseverance in facing those challenges and hopefully encourages everyone that they too can come together and help solve these issues. So, once again, I thank you for proclaiming November as Native American Heritage Month. It shows the support of our Native community and it is a big step in journey to gain acceptance, equality and equity. Thank you”