The Utah Division of Indian Affairs (UDIA) and Thanksgiving Point have teamed up this year for the annual Indigenous Day celebration. November is National Native American Indian Heritage month and they will be kicking the month off with a program at the Thanksgiving Point show barn on Friday, November 4 at 7:00 PM. The theme for this year is “Spiritual Wings: Embracing Native Culture.”
Shirlee Silversmith, Division Director for the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, says that the American Indian has always had respect for land, four-legged ones, and the environment. They want to align themselves with Thanksgiving Point and the biosphere for butterflies that is currently under construction at Thanksgiving Point. Silversmith is excited that everyone will have a chance to experience that atmosphere. One of the dances that will be presented at the program on Friday is the Shawl Dance, which depicts butterfly wings and colors. Native American dances are sacred and passed down through the generations by someone special, similar to a godmother or mentor. The mentor explains the meaning and purpose of each move in the dance as they teach it.
The show barn at Thanksgiving Point will have displays featuring poetry entries from Utah American Indian students all over the state. The UDIA website explains, “The poetry contest is an excellent opportunity for Native students to express themselves and recognize the many contributions of Utah’s American Indian communities. The goal of the contest is to encourage Native students to identify the value of culture and how culture can help them achieve their goals.” The keynote speaker for the event is Bart Stevens, former director of the Bureau of Indian Education.
The culture and history of Native Americans is an important piece of the American story. Kim DeMonja, a member of the Navajo and Comanche Nations who lives in American Fork, grew up hearing her mother’s stories and being taught Navajo traditions. DeMonja remembers her mother dressing her and her siblings in Navajo dresses with concho belts for Pioneer Day and “Mountain Man Day” at school. DeMonja has had to pull together costumes for her own children when they have Colonial Day and Immigration Day at their schools. “When do we have Native American Day? I have those clothes!” Native American dress would never be called a costume, and headdresses are only worn on sacred occasions.
The stories of Utah’s indigenous peoples will be on display through poetry, music, and dance tomorrow evening at the Thanksgiving Point show barn.