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National Native American Heritage Month: The Land of Orange County

Native American Monument in Hillsborough

Long before Chapel Hill was home to the University of North Carolina, Occaneechi, Sissipahaw, Shakori, Haw and Eno Native Americans roamed the land. People of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation still live in the area today. These Native Americans hunted, farmed, held ceremonies and traded on the land where the university now stands. In particular, deerskin trading was popular due to the nearby Great Trading Path. Found artifacts lead experts to believe Indigenous people hunted and settled near Franklin St. from 500 BC to 500 AD. Findings show Finley Golf Course was also previously inhabited by Native Americans. There is documentation the Occaneechi moved to the Eno River, present day Hillsborough, in 1680 after being run out of their land in Virginia. John Lawson, an English explorer, visited their village in 1701. His writings describe well built homes in their community. The village was empty by 1712 as the Occaneechi had moved northeast to join other Native Americans.
November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the contributes of our nation’s first people, remember their history and learn about their culture.

UNC American Indian Center Events
Learn more about the Occaneechi Indians

Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead Altar

Dia De Los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, celebrates those who have died. By honoring the deceased, death is acknowledged as an important part of the life cycle. The holiday originated in Mexico but is now celebrated across Latin America and in the United States.  On November 1 and 2, it is believed the spirits of the dead return home to spend time with their living loved ones. Many welcome the dead by building altars made from marigolds, candles, photos, papel picado (cut tissue-paper designs) and food or beverages. Skulls and skeletons are also common decorations. During these two days, families spend time cleaning and decorating gravesites. Some communities, schools and museums in the U.S. have begun a tradition of creating an altar as a cultural expression instead of honoring an individual.

Explore the history and elements of the altars

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Pride Flag

Every year hundreds of transgender people worldwide are killed due to anti-trans violence. On November 20, communities come together to remember the transgender people who were victim to this brutality. These events also educate and bring awareness to the prejudice and hatred transgender people face. Transgender day of remembrance was started in 1999 to honor Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998. Her death sparked a web project, “Remembering Our Dead” and a candlelight vigil which turned into an annual tradition. Local organizations hold ceremonies to carry on the mission. Some refer to this day as Trans Day of Resilience to celebrate transgender lives while also recognizing trans people of color disproportionally face violence.

Durham event
Learn More about Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience

Other Holidays and Observances

Nov 11: Veterans Day recognizes the men and women who have served in the armed forces.

Nov. 16: The International Day for Tolerance was founded by the United Nations to increase the respect for diverse languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities.

Nov. 16: Dutch American Heritage Day recognizes the strong friendship between the Netherlands and America. The Netherlands was one of the first countries to recognize the United State’s Independence.

Nov. 24: Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November to recognize the autumn harvest feast shared between Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag.