Parks and Crafts: A DIY Fall With Help From PA Parks!
Critters and Conservation: Wildlife Conservation Day
November is Native American Heritage Month – a month meant to give recognition to the contributions of Native Americans in the U.S. The month is for showing appreciation for all facets of the Native American experience, but it’s hard not to recognize one universal experience for Indigenous peoples. Many national parks are home to original ancestral land and a history both joyful and painful. Not just that, but nature itself is a large part of their tribal identity.
So, what can we do this month, and all months, to uplift Native American voices? How does this history affect how PA parks run today? Here are some ways to celebrate Indigenous peoples and acknowledge their deep-rooted relationship with parks in the process.
Visit Historic Sites in Nature
Pennsylvania is abundant with historical sites dedicated to Native Americans, many of which are within parks and natural land throughout the state. These sites range in time periods, but some go as far back as the Paleoindian period (aka 10,000-16,000 years ago!) and a visit to some of these sites could give us a new perspective and refreshing insight on our country and what was on this very land way before we were ever here.
The oldest site in Pennsylvania is the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County. This shelter near Cross Creek was used about 19,000 years ago! The site’s artifacts are not limited to just the rock overhang, but include much more. Meadowcroft features a wigwam, a 16th-century Eastern Woodland Indian Village, and an 18th-century trading post.
This fun and informative site, among many others, can be a great outdoor activity to explore in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Looking to tour multiple historic spots? PA Historic Preservation gives a resource round-up of some places to hit to soak up some history!
Hike a Native American Trail
Some historical sites within Pennsylvania come in the form of trails. There were many paths throughout the state used for traveling by different tribes – a good bit are unfortunately highways, paved roads, and other modern un-walkable areas now (you can see approximate paths mapped out HERE). Others, though, are still within natural areas meant for walking, hiking, and learning. You may just have to be a hiking aficionado to follow the exact steps tribes would have taken. But we definitely don’t recommend taking a walk along Route 62!
One of the largest hotspots for trail history is within Pine Creek Valley and the PA Grand Canyon. The Pine Creek Path was ideal back in the day for easier traveling that avoided harsh mountain climbs. The path was estimated to have begun in what is now the “Jersey Shore” but you won’t find any of the “Jersey Shore” cast on this route! Today, Pine Creek Valley boasts tons of hiking paths, scenic viewing areas, and historical posts. The Pennsylvania Wilds lists some of the most iconic trail routes taken by Native Americans.
And always remember that you can find all the local and state parks on our own Park Finder. CLICK HERE
Hear from Native American PRPs
It’s important to not only acknowledge the existence and humanity of Native Americans from the past, but the vibrancy and existence of Native Americans living and working in the country today. A great way to experience this cultural enrichment is through the knowledge and lessons of Native American park and recreation professionals. Park and recreation professionals involve not just a physical duty to parks, but an informative one. They know the deep history of parks and the modern-day park dynamics that are truly enlightening to hear. In 2021, it was announced that Charles “Chuck” Sams III would lead the National Park Service, the first Native American to do so!
The National Park Service features a hub of resources for celebrating and acknowledging the month of November. One of the features is “My Park Story”. – an incredible set of articles from different Native American employees and interns for NPS who wanted to share their experience.
Sign Petitions or Donate
Maybe you’re not looking to travel to any outdoor Native American historical spots this month. What can you do? Petitions and donations are great ways to show support, be involved, and learn without having to leave the house. Many are even available to do through a mobile device – so hop off Wordle and visit GoFundMe instead!
Petitions have a history of making actual changes. Just one signature goes a long way. And Pennsylvania is not alien to them. Online you can find an abundance of different Native-American-based petitions. A current petition worth taking a look at is the “State Recognition for Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania”. Many in the Lenape Nation work to care for the Delaware River and the land surrounding it, land that was originally home to their Lenape descendants.
Change.org’s search tool is a perfect place to start. Their “Native American Rights” topic features tons of petitions. Take a peek and sign a bunch that speak to you most.
A lack of acknowledgment of this important month is a lack of acknowledgment of the resilient and incredible Native American nation, and unfortunately, all the land that was once only theirs. Pennsylvania’s parks are beautiful and exciting, but they are also packed with history and are almost always the previous stomping grounds for Indigenous peoples. So take time this month to learn, appreciate, and support this incredible history and still-existent nation of people.