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November is the month to honor Native Americans

By Abigail Hardison

Rowan Public Library

This is a busy time for many of us. Leaves need raking, food needs preparing, winter clothes need to be pulled and our flip-flops and tank tops put away.

Election Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving and the impending Christmas season can take up a lot of space in our schedules and our minds. But let us take a moment and look out our windows at the majestic fall foliage and imagine what our beautiful land was like a few hundred years ago and those people who made it home first.

November is Native American History Month, and it is easy to see how it could pass unnoticed by all of us.

What is now Rowan County was home in a much earlier time to native people who lived, loved, fought, farmed and raised families here. It is not impossible to imagine what their world may have looked like considering the miles of undeveloped farmland and forests still intact in much of Rowan County.

North Carolina historically has several tribes associated with it, and the Cherokee, Catawbans and the Tuscarora are the most well-known. The lesser-known tribe that populated the Pee Dee River Basin from South Carolina all the way up to the Yadkin River was the Cheraw tribe, now considered extinct, but if you find an arrowhead in your backyard, it might be from a Cheraw. All of these tribes are considered to be part of the “South Appalachian Mississippian Culture” which was a loosely interconnected trade network in the Southeast, sharing similar languages and customs.

Here at Rowan Public Library, we have a sizeable collection of materials on the local native peoples in our History Room. Anyone interested can view historical books such as “History of the Old Cheraws” by Alexander Gregg, or “Natives & Newcomers: The Way We Lived In North Carolina before 1770” by Elizabeth A. Fenn and Peter H. Wood.

The Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, and the National Park Service are all providing exhibits and collections to celebrate our first peoples this month. More information is available at the website: nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov.

Though the legacy of our native tribes can be hard to see at first glance, it is important to remember that for many of us, that legacy is within. Part of the reason so many of the tribes are extinct is because they intermarried with the incoming settlers, or with other tribes.

Many of us do not know that when we celebrate and acknowledge the native tribes we are celebrating ourselves. When we eat many of the delicious foods that we know and love, such as corn, squash, blueberries and cranberries, peanuts and yes, our Thanksgiving turkey, remember these are foods that were not on the dinner tables of our European ancestors across the ocean.

These foods were shared with us by the first people here, and in the ensuing years they have become ours. Yes, we have heralded many a celebration with apple pies and hamburgers, but it was the squash, the corn, and the pole beans that got us through centuries of long, hungry winters. If our ancestors had not learned how to survive here from those first peoples they might not have lasted very long. Just ask the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

So as we feast this season, take a moment to consider what life would have been like, in that exact spot, 300 years ago. Your central heat and smart phone would seem mighty strange to those Cheraws that were here back then, but the foods on your dinner plate might seem quite familiar.

The Nutcracker: Nov. 29, 6:30-7:30 p.m., headquarters. Rowan Public Library and members of the Salisbury Symphony present dance selections from Piedmont Dance Theatre’s “The Nutcracker Ballet.”  This is a classic holiday program for all ages.  Light refreshments will be served. This event is free, open to the public, and all ages welcome.

Movie Night at East: “The Preacher’s Wife,” Nov. 30, 5:30 p.m., East Branch, Rockwell. Angel Dudley (Denzel Washington) tries to save a marriage and earn his wings in “The Preacher’s Wife.” Also starring Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance, this 1996, PG-rated film has a runtime of 124 minutes. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free, open to the public, and all ages are welcome.

RoBoJo Holiday Show: Dec. 3, 2 p.m., headquarters. RoboJo Theatre Troupe returns to RPL for the 17th annual presentation of Holiday Theater. A fun crew of talented local actors joins RPL’s Children’s staff to perform an hour-long variety show featuring skits, songs, readers’ theater and audience participation.

National Parks 100th Celebration: Dec. 5, 6:30-7:30 p.m., headquarters. Free and open to the public. A pictorial journey through U.S. National Parks presented by Dr. Wyndham Whynot, professor of history at Livingstone College in celebration of the 100th year of the National Park Service. Accompanying display in the HQ display cabinets.

Holiday Pajama Express: Dec. 6, 6-7:30 p.m., South Rowan Regional, China Grove. Hop on board for an evening of holiday fun, refreshments, and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Don’t forget to wear your favorite holiday pajamas. Call 704-216-7729 for more details.

Stories with Elves: Dec. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon, East branch, Rockwell. Join us in a fun-filled day of Christmas stories with the Elves from East Branch. Light refreshments with be served while we have crafts, activities, Christmas Karaoke and a special visit from you-know-who.

Technology Tuesdays: iPad Basics, Nov. 29, 7-8 p.m., headquarters. Become a confident iPad user in this free class. We’ll discuss components, navigation and the use of apps. Must bring your iPad (fully charged) with you to class. Seating is limited. To reserve your spot, please call 704-216-8248 or email info@rowancountync.gov

Chapter Chats Book Club: A weekly club for teens 14-17, primarily for participants with developmental or intellectual disabilities, but all are welcome. Meets at East branch meeting room, Tuesdays, 5 p.m., Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, 13, 20.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Nov. 29, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme.”Bel Canto,” by Ann Patchett. Need a copy? Call 704-216-7731. Dec. 13, “Fair and Tender Ladies,” by Lee Smith.

Displays for December: Headquarters, National Parks 100th Year Celebration; East, It’s a Wonderful Live Village, Tammie Foster; South, Carson High School student art work.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

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