Native American Heritage Month Local Celebration: Interview with Mary Housel

Casey Arias, Editor in Chief of the Gavel

Longtime New Providence resident Mary Housel currently serves on the New Providence Diversity Committee and heads the Native American subcommittee, leading its efforts to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. To celebrate the special month, Mrs. Housel and the NPDC are planning their third annual celebration. This November 20th at St. Andrew’s Parish Hall in New Providence, the celebration is slated to take place from four to five in the afternoon. This celebration is centered on learning about life on Native American reservations through the unique experiences of Chrystalene Millan from the Omaha tribe. Millan will share the experiences of children and young adults throughout the celebration, which will culminate in the displaying of posters that commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people. These posters will be displayed at Centennial Park in New Providence on November 21st from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. As a woman of Native American descent, Mrs. Housel celebrates Native American Heritage Month by educating people about the month’s significance. Mrs. Housel accomplishes this through programs she leads at schools and for Scouts, as well as celebrating Rockin my Mocs (moccasins) that is part of Rock Your Mocs week from 11/14-21. Her involvement within schools and the greater community as well as her identity have contributed to her desire to see Native American issues reflected in the education system. Mrs. Housel believes that Native history taught by actual Native peoples can result in the spread of accurate education, as opposed to the fundamentally inaccurate way which undermines the stories and struggles Native Americans have undergone that is prevalent in history classrooms today. Through that, people can have a better understanding of Native history, which many people are grossly unfamiliar with.

Important issues Mrs. Housel believes should be addressed include the protection of water from pipelines, the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people, and the children that are being found buried at residential schools in Canada and U.S. as recently as early this week. Mrs. Housel described other ways to support the Native American community, including reading, doing research, and buying Native made goods.

Mrs. Housel’s Native American ancestry traces back to her grandfather, who was half Navajo and half Cherokee. Her grandfather came from Texas and found his way to Pennsylvania, where he settled down with Mrs. Housel’s grandmother. She shares her Native American heritage with her community and encourages others to grow in their understanding of Native history through her words and actions. The story Chrystalene will share about her history and people is of her Auntie, who was found murdered on a reservation where Chrystalene grew up and off of. Join NPDC’s event to hear more about this story and celebrate Native American Heritage Month by honoring Native American people and their struggles. Most importantly, support Native causes by spreading the word and educating others.