In accordance with HFES’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we recognize National Native American/Indigenous Peoples Month. As the October 31 White House Proclamation on Native American Heritage Month states, “…we celebrate indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.” We also honor the significant contributions that the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have made to our civilization and indeed to the world. A sample of these contributions include:
- Thousands of names for cities, states, mountains, rivers, and other geographical features in North and South America are borrowed from Indigenous languages.
- Food crops first domesticated by Indigenous Peoples of the Americas account for half of the food crops grown in the world with corn being the world’s leading industrial crop. Importantly, Indigenous peoples developed the technology and methods to grow, harvest and process the crops.
- Fiber crops as well are important - all cotton grown in the US and long-staple varieties grown throughout the world were first domesticated in the Americas. A significant product was rubber which became a crucial material for modern industry and transportation.
- Indigenous healers introduced a wealth of medicinal knowledge into the world pharmacology. For example, quinine, from a tree bark, was used for the treatment of malaria. Its introduction marked the beginning of modern pharmacology.
We furthermore recognize the historical wrongs committed against the Indigenous Peoples of the United States including broken treaties, forced relocation from ancestral lands and the horrendous legacy of forced assimilation and cultural suppression. Indigenous communities continue to suffer much greater rates of unemployment, poverty, disease, social displacement, and isolation as well as lack of many services often including basic utilities.
HFES, as part of our efforts to reach out to and engage with historically under-represented and marginalized groups, has established an MOU with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society or AISES with the intent of increasing representation of Indigenous peoples in the HF/E profession. HFES was honored by the participation of Lisa Paz, the AISES Senior Director of Engagement and Advocacy, in one of the plenary sessions of the 66th International Annual Meeting of HFES, which took place in Atlanta last month.
Baron Summers of HFES has taken on the role of HFES liaison to AISES and I am honored and excited to take the role of co-liaison in this important endeavor.
I invite all HFES members to think and learn about the National Native American/Indigenous Peoples Month. Also, as part of our allyship with AISES, think of what we as HFES members can do in support of it and of Indigenous communities and persons in general, not only in the Americas but world-wide. If you have ideas or suggestions, we would love to hear them!
In closing I would like to leave you with the sentiments of an Ojibway prayer:
Teach us love, compassion, and honor – that we may heal the earth and heal each other
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