November is Native American Heritage Month, and we’re celebrating the history of Native Americans within the YMCA.
One of the many Indigenous Americans we celebrate this month is Charles Eastman, the first Native American to be certified in Western medicine. Eastman’s passion to support Native American youth led him to the YMCA when he was selected as the International Committee to fill the role of secretary for the growing YMCA movement in North Dakota and Minnesota. Between 1894 and 1898, he established 32 Native American chapters of the YMCA.
The New York YMCA invited Eastman and author Ernest Thompson Seton to help them design the YMCA Indian Scouts for urban boys. At the time, the group would use rooftop gardens and city parks for their activities. Today, the group is known across the nation as the father/child enrichment program, YMCA Adventure Guides. Eastman would also go on to help found the Boys Scouts of America.
Without the determination of Native Americans like Charles Eastman, this country would not be where it is today. More importantly, the YMCA would not have the broad depth of diversity we know and love.
Oklahoma has a strong culture of Native American heritage. To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, we encourage you to visit museums, heritage centers and historical sites that honor Native Americans. You can also read books and watch movies, shows or documentaries produced by or starring Native Americans. However you choose to participate, we hope you find yourself celebrating the ancestry of Indigenous people by honoring their cultures and traditions.