The Pledge of Allegiance asserts that the United States is one nation with liberty and justice for all. The U.S. history of settler colonialism illustrates that from its beginning days, our country has fallen far short of living up to these ideals, especially in relation to the indigenous peoples of North America. For democracy to flourish today, we must face the crimes of our past, such as the destruction of the native peoples and their culture, and we must each commit to do what we can to right past wrongs and to uphold democratic values for all. We can demonstrate our commitment to democratic values and virtues by honoring the lives, the experience, and the culture of those who came before us.

Many organizations, schools, and conferences now open their meetings by acknowledging and thanking the indigenous people who first lived on the land where they are gathered. At the least, this familiarizes those in attendance with the names of the ancestors of their neighborhood places.

To learn the indigenous story of your neighborhood , visit the Native Land website and app. Native Land strives to map indigenous languages, treaties, and territories. Go to the website or the app and enter your ZIP code or city. The interactive map will zoom in and pull up information on your area’s Indigenous history, original language, and tribal ties. For example, you might type in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and learn that this area was actually traditional Chahta (Choctaw) territory. Further research on this tribe would reveal that as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Choctaw Indians were removed from their homeland in 1831 along what they named the Trail of Tears -- the 1,000 mile route that the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes were forced to travel from their homelands to reservations in present day Oklahoma. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Choctaws and nearly 4,000 Cherokees died during the journey.

In Spirit of Service, Penelope Franklin suggests some specific ways to honor and help preserve Native American culture in your neighborhood:

*Visit the Lost Worlds online interactive museum of indigenous civilization of America.

*Participate in traditions and customs (by making crafts, trying recipes, etc.) through Snowwowl.

*Find a powwow in your area and read the article on Powwow Etiquette so that you can respectfully participate.

*Get involved with nonprofit organizations like the Native American Heritage Association or the Adopt-an-Elder program to support employment, education, infrastructure, and cultural preservation of indigenous communities.

As you learn the indigenous story of your neighborhood and as you take action to honor and preserve indigenous culture and connection to the land, do your best to consider an indigenous perspective of our democratic values and virtues.

Habib Todd Boerger, Penelope Franklin in Practicing Democracy in Your Neighborhood by Habib Todd Boerger