Editor’s Note: For over five years as an ICTMN correspondent and one as an ICTMN editor, I have been contacting the Google Doodles management department and Google Press to urge them to honor Native American Heritage Month in November or Native American Heritage Day, which falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
On November 18th, 2016, Google Doodle used ledger art to honor Native author James Welch, Blackfeet/Gros Ventre, on what would have been Welch’s 76th birthday.
Though Google acknowledged the contributions of Native artists — including artist Joan Hill, Muskogee Creek; singer Radmilla Cody, Diné; designer Lloyd Henri New, Cherokee; Musician Supaman (Christian Parrish Takes the Gun), Crow; and ballerina Maria Tallchief, Osage; launched a special section of Google Play, “Native American Heritage Reads,” which features 25 books about or by Native Americans, including Welch’s Fools Crow and created a YouTube Spotlight channel section, “Beats, Rhymes, and Indigenous Life,” featuring songs from 17 Native musicians or groups and 10 videos showing pow wow dances all month — was it enough?
ICTMN asked a few folks in Indian country their thoughts.
National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby
I think in the 21st century people are starting to slowly become aware of the contributions of Native Americans. It is going to take time for big corporations like Google to embrace the thought of honoring our first inhabitants. So this is a first step at least in terms of reaching out and shining a small light on the contributions of James Welch.
I think that we need to continue to advocate to get places like Google to do things like this. It would be nice to see a daily or even weekly honoring. This is a step in the right direction in bringing attention to Native people in the greatest country the world knows.
Chairman and National spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association Ernie Stevens, Jr.
All of this depends on how you look at this. At least Google is moving forward, but many people need to follow the lead.
I wish they would have mentioned Native American Heritage Month somewhere on the landing page. President Barack Obama issues a proclamation every year and I would hope they would have analyzed the proclamation to give them a bit more information. NAHM is an opportunity to help educate america about the contributions of America’s first people. Many people do not realize our veterans served at a higher per capita.
Celebrating Native American Heritage Month helps to educate people away from racism and stereotypes of history. We are traditional hardworking people that have made a giant contribution to history. We are so much more than a logo on a baseball hat.
To be appreciated is a giant step forward to help our children understand the true resilience and sincere reflection of native people. Proper education moves people away from stereotypes.
Native Actor and Musician Loren Anthony
I don’t truly think it is good enough because our Native youth use so much media today and I think this was a way to teach. People might come onto the Google homepage and may not really know what this is about.
I don’t think this is good enough because Native youth could have been shown a much more recognized showcase. This page is easy to overlook with a man’s face and a few horses. I think there could have been a bit more.
Champion for Change Cierra Fields
I don’t think much of it. It is nice to see a recognition of a Native artist, but find it disappointing Google didn’t even mention that November is Native American Heritage Month.
I don’t know if Google realizes the impact they could have made with just a few words that mentioned that.
Columbia Alumna and Tribal Policy Advocate Mari Hulbutta
I was pleased to see Google honor Blackfeet novelist and poet James Welch by posting a banner on its homepage with Native iconography and ledger art. This small action may elevate visibility of Native artists but it is unclear whether it was done in celebration of Native American Heritage Month. I hope this leads to greater efforts to highlight additional important Indigenous figures like Welch throughout Indian Country.
Chairman of American Indians in Film and Television Sonny Skyhawk
I don’t look at this effort from Google as a nod as much as I see it as barely a wink.
This Google Doodle does honor a wonderful person, James Welch, but overall it does not address us in a contemporary light, in that we are constantly fighting the battle that we as Native people are still here and alive and well in the 21st century.
Cherokee Musician Michael Bucher
I think it is good, even great that a native person is in the spotlight of Google. In as much as the gesture is an appreciated one, I do think the importance in mentioning that Native American Heritage Month would have been a great asset, but I certainly don’t want to downplay a positive gesture.
I am hopeful for more from Google in the years to come.
Editor’s Note in closing:
I first must express appreciation to Google for first of all listening to my inquiries to honor Native American Heritage Month. I want to give a personal note of thanks to Ty Sheppard at the Google press department for responding to my inquiries.
However it was a bit disheartening that a non-Native artist Sophia Diao created the art to honor Native author James Welch – this is nothing against the artist – who did a great job, but a native artist would have been a bit more appropriate. Though it is worth noting that Diao, a woman of color of Chinese descent did six weeks of research and even conferred with Welch’s widow to pay Welch tribute.
And I do wish there was one more note on the page directly referring to the fact November is Native American Heritage Month.
Google could have completely ignored the request, so this gesture is a step in the right direction.
Take a look at my Change.org page to let Google know you find these efforts appreciated and wish to see further efforts to promote the existence of Native people in a contemporary light.