Fletcher Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

Paying tribute to the rich history, culture, heritage and contributions of Native peoples in the US.
Native American Heritage Month
Jade Rhoads
Jade Rhoads / Weyęhknę (She Goes and Returns) MALD 20

Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the diverse cultures and contributions of our country’s Native American peoples (American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians), and acknowledge their strength and resilience throughout multiple generations and across many geographies. We asked Fletcher alumna Jade Rhoads, who hails from the Tuscarora Nation and is a member of the Deer Clan, about what she wants people to know about Native Americans, the inspiration behind her academic interests, and her favorite childhood memory.

Respecting the Past 

One thing I would love for people to know about Native Americans during the Heritage Month celebration is that we’re still here, that while we still maintain our traditions and cultures, we are not “objects of nostalgia.” We are living and evolving with the rest of the world and are not stuck in a specific timeframe. We do our best to maintain our culture, traditions, languages, and ceremonies that come from our ancestors and have been maintained by our ancestors while simultaneously evolving with the rest of the world.  

Shaping the Future 

To me having pride in my heritage means that I remain Tuscarora no matter where I am, that I introduce myself with my Haudenosaunee name Weyęhknę (She Goes and Returns) and as a member of the Tuscarora Deer Clan. It also means returning home to attend ceremonies, learning more of my language, teaching my daughter our culture, language, and history, and also informing others about Tuscaroras, and Huadenosaunee (Iroquois) people, culture, and history.

My heritage influenced my capstone while at Fletcher. I focused on the importance of Traditional Knowledge (TK) particularly regarding climate change. Traditionally our relationship with our environment is based on sustainability because our worldview is that we are part of the environment, that we are not separate from our surroundings, what is done to the environment is done to us. That is something I want to speak about. I would say that the worldview of inseparability with the environment is important. It has always been timely; I feel it is more so now being that so much is out of balance.

Honoring Traditions

A favorite memory I have of one of our traditions is our naming ceremony. Each Clan has their own traditional names and our Clan Mother chooses our name. My daughter, Vera, was two years old when she received her Haudenosaunee name, Yehę’ni-ręhs (She Moves Through the Meadow). This particular memory is tied to the reminder that we’re not here forever. Our names return to the Clan when we pass on. It is a reminder that we are only passing through, and that there are others who are going to follow after us. To see my daughter receive her name and know that her name will one day return back to the Deer Clan just like mine will, puts in perspective the importance of our time here. Knowing that there are future generations to come reminds us of the importance of living in right relations with our surroundings and environment. If we are just living for ourselves then we’re not really living. We have to be mindful.