When most Americans think about American Indians in November, it's probably as part of Thanksgiving pageantry: the Wampanoags who gave the hapless Pilgrims food during their first winter at Plymouth and taught them how to grow corn the following spring, the ninety Indians who attended the "first Thanksgiving" feast in 1621. You may not know that, ever since 1990, November has officially been "Native American Heritage Month" in the United States, a time to recognize "the rich ancestry and traditions" of the nation's first inhabitants. But Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings has some reservations about the accuracy of our Native American knowledge. It's never too late to set the record straight!
The Debunker: Is It Bad to Be the "Low Man on the Totem Pole"?
The native tribes of my part of America, the Pacific Northwest, are probably best known for their enormous wood sculptures called totem poles. A single tree trunk, often a red cedar, is carved and painted with a series of human and animal figures representing tribal history and legend. There's a long tradition of decorative house posts among Pacific tribes, but the craft of totem pole carving reached its apex in the 19th century, when the poles were status symbols for wealthy Native families.