The Norwalk Board of Education is proud to recognize November as National Native American Heritage Month. National Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of indigenous or First Nation people. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges they have faced.
Native Americans have lived in Norwalk for thousands of years. The Norwalk Historical Society has highlighted the arrival of the first people to Norwalk in their current exhibition, “Norwalk’s Changing Communities 13,000 BC -1835,” now on display at the Mill Hill Historic Park.
The Mill Hill exhibition features a look at how Indigenous People used natural resources in their home, work and community life, with nothing going to waste. It also discusses the evidence of a village and trading post that was discovered during site work for the Walk Bridge replacement. That discovery demonstrated that Indigenous People used the site for many centuries before Dutch and European explorers arrived in the area.
Early on, it was believed that the name Norwalk came from “north walk” – a day’s walk to the northern edge of the land purchased from the Native Americans. According to the Norwalk Historical Society, maps from the 17th Century show reference the Marimakes, Indigenous People who lived in the area, and labelled the area as “Norwalke,” meaning point of land. At the time of English settlement, it is thought that between 200 and 300 Indigenous People lived in the area.
On February 26, 1640, Roger Ludlow entered into a treaty with Chief Mahackemo of the small Norwalk tribe of Siwanoy and purchased “all lands lying between the Saugatuck and Norwalk rivers, to the middle of said rivers, and from the sea, a day’s walk into the country.” In subsequent years, many Indigenous People became enslaved, indentured servants or were forced to move from the area.
Since 1990, Congress has authorized an annual presidential proclamation that designates November as National American Indian Heritage Month to encourage all people to learn about the Indigenous peoples of the North American continent. Similar proclamations under various names, including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month,” have been issued each year since 1994.
By declaring this National Native American Heritage Month, the Board of Education encourages our community to learn about and honor the history and culture of Native Americans here in Norwalk and across the country, as well as Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.