First Nations always aims to create space for Indigenous people to share stories and insights. During Native American Heritage Month and as part of our ongoing “Lunch and Learn” series, we were honored to have Kevin Gover, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture for the Smithsonian Institute (and former Director of the Nation Museum of the American Indian) speak to First Nations’ staff and supporters about the impact of problematic narratives of Native Americans in U.S. society.
During the discussion, Kevin shared highlights from the TEDx Talks – (Re)Making History: The Real Story is Bigger and Better and what he is doing now to help change false narratives surrounding the first thanksgiving and other myths Americans have been taught. He also spoke about his new role as Under Secretary and how he will help advance not only authentic Indigenous history, but histories of Latinx Americans and women.
The perpetuation of myths, such as the vanishing Indian and the creation of the Pocahontas princess, make way for our true history to be erased and rewritten. These stories also pave a path for misinformation and shallow narratives, with the erasure of a whole continent of thriving peoples being reduced to just one paragraph in an American history text book.
Providing a platform for speakers such as Kevin creates an opportunity to talk about those hard truths and embrace that messier side of history — the side that many people in the United States try to forget or not acknowledge. We must continue to share this ugly truth in order to heal the wounds of the past and ensure we do not make the same mistakes again.
Thank you to Kevin for sparking these important conversations and for inspiring us to critically think about the messages we choose to reinforce.