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November is Native American Heritage Month

November 17, 2021

Native American History Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to as American Indian Month. It is a time that we all get a chance to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of Native people. This month offers Americans a chance to learn more about the invaluable contributions that Native people have made and understand the centuries of unique challenges they have faced.

Native Names

For instance, the Tennessee Valley was the home to Native Americans more than 12 thousand years ago. Did you realize that the name “Tennessee” comes from the Native American word “Tanasi.” Settlers came to this part of the world to enjoy its rich natural resources that we enjoy today.

The Early Years

Native Americans in Tennessee began to grow maize or corn. This allowed towns and villages to grow rapidly in the state. When the English and French began to explore this region, many Native Americans were killed by diseases such as smallpox and measles. Native Americans had never been exposed to any of these diseases. Their bodies had no natural resistance or immunity.

The Cherokees Arrive

The 18th century in Tennessee saw a large influx of Cherokee Indians. According to the Tennessee State Library and Archives Education Outreach Program, “The arrival of French explorers and Virginian traders in the mid-1600s marked the beginning of the end of Tennessee’s native culture. For the next hundred years, the trade in deer and beaver pelts was the main connection between European Americans and Native Americans. From the western reaches of Virginia and the Carolinas into what would be known as Tennessee, the Cherokee ruled, having earlier driven the Creek, Yuchi, and Shawnee from the region. They were the last native group to actually live in part of Tennessee.”

Government Removal

A lot of Native Americans were removed by the federal government in the 1830’s. Needless to say, the roots of Native Americans run very deep in the Tennessee Valley. Lots of archeological sites have been discovered throughout the Tennessee Valley including burial mounds, rock art, broken spears and ancient campsites.

Educate Yourself

During this special month, why not check out this website entitled, The Land and Native People as part of the Tennessee Education Outreach Program. Also, you can visit the many Native American historical sites in our area such as Audubon Acres, the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Birchwood, Tennessee, Red Clay State Park in Cleveland, or the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District just to name a few. The complete listing of Native American sites in Tennessee can be found at

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