A time to learn about land and culture: Native American heritage month

Krystina Slack

For those who are not familiar with Native American culture, now is the perfect time to educate yourself about Native American traditions, culture and history. This month is Native American Heritage Month, and there are many ways to learn more about Native American history. You can read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and attend lectures.

Recently, the Davenport Public Library had Augustana professor Dr. Jane Simonsen give a lecture titled “Standing (on) Her Ground: Native American Women & Land Claims in Eastern Iowa, on Native American women and the history of Native Americans in the Quad City area.” This lecture detailed the rich history surrounding Native American culture and how it is celebrated today.

Native American history is more closely tied to Augustana’s land than one might think. Native American history and culture have played a huge role in the Quad City area. Black Hawk led his people through the area during the Black Hawk War. The Quad City area has also had some prominent figures who many did not know were part Native American.

Simonsen discussed Marguerite LePage Le Claire and her husband Antoine Le Claire. Within the Quad Cities, they are most known for the Le Claire house on the bluff in Davenport, Iowa. Antoine was also one of the principal founders of Davenport. They were considered to be mixed-race people (referred to in the census as free white people) with deep connections to the Native American communities in the area.

Native American women were also a large part of the lecture. Women were important and valued members of Native American society.

“Women had a connection to the land through the work they did,” Simonsen said. Native American women not only worked as farmers, but also as lead miners. According to Simonsen, work that was “of the Earth” was seen as women’s work.

The work Native American women did was greatly valued by their families and communities. Without the work the Native American women did, the communities as a whole would have suffered greatly.

“They were indigenous people in the 1830s saying this is who I am,” Dr. Simonsen said. Native Americans have always been a proud community. They have always presented themselves proudly, even in the 1800s.

Today, the Native American community is still proud of who they are and shows off different aspects of their culture through videos, interviews, TikToks, articles and more.

As this is Native American Heritage month, everyone should educate themselves about Native American history and culture. Read a book on Native American women, watch a video about the Black Hawk War or listen to a podcast about Native American issues in the twenty-first century.

You can also go to the Tredway Library and see what they have on Native Americans and their culture. Take the time to learn about these people that were here long before we were and the struggles and achievements they have had through the centuries.