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November 11 is Veterans Day, a day to remember and honor those who served in the U.S. military. It was originally called Armistice Day, but was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.* It is a day that we should also recognize and show our appreciation for those who currently serve in the military.
The month of November is referred to as “indigenous Peoples Month.” In 1990, the U.S. Congress established November as the National American Indian Month, also known as Native American Month.*
The poem “Song of Hiawatha,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882; poet), focuses on Native Americans (“Indigenous People”). The poem is at least 100 pages long. Its references to the connection between nature and humans makes me think of climate change and the need for humans to address it.
I did not read “Song of Hiawatha” in school, but my sister and I remember our mom reciting some of it when we were young. We only remembered the first line of what she recited, but that was enough to locate it and print some of the lines below.
“…By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis…
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water…
There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews…
Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,
Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits…
Showed the broad white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens…”
The Introduction to “Song of Hiawatha” includes the lines below, which I think demonstrate Longfellow’s mission to have Native American culture recognized, appreciated and respected.
“…There he sang of Hiawatha…
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people…
Listen to this Indian Legend…
Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
Listen to this simple story, To this Song of Hiawatha!”
*Thanks to Evanston Public Library Reference Staff Jeff and Katie for their assistance.