Observed annually each November, Native American Heritage Month is a national recognition of the significant contributions Natives have made to the establishment and growth of the United States.  The observance began when Dr. Arthur C. Parker, member of the Seneca Nation and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, joined forces with the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans.” It was celebrated as such for three years until 1915 when the president of the Congress of the American Indian Association, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, issued a proclamation declaring the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day.  In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as Native American Heritage Month stating that “the President has authorized and requested to call upon Federal, State and local Government, groups and organizations and the people of the United states to observe such month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.” This commemorative month aims to provide a platform for Native people in the United states of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance and ways and concepts of life.

This week, we had the honor of collaborating with the Muckleshoot Tribal School (MTS) in Auburn, WA to celebrate the life of Rachel Lucy Givens, a member of the Navajo Nation and former teacher at MTS. Last October Rachel was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver. In her passing she saved the lives of five individuals through her gift of organ donation.

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Rachel’s family stands with her completed floragraph

“She was always giving, she was a giver.  If she didn’t need it, she wanted someone else to have it,” said Rachel’s mother Laura.  “Us being Native American it’s kind of taboo, but she saw the bigger picture; which she always did.”

Each year Donate Life America participates in the Pasadena Rose Parade with a float celebrating the gift of life, and those touched by organ, eye and tissue donation. Donors from across the nation are honored through floral portraits, called “floragraphs”, that adorn the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. This year LifeCenter Northwest is proud to sponsor Rachel and her family to be part of the Rose Parade celebration with other donor families, recipients and living donors from around the United States.

On Wednesday we gathered with Rachel’s family, friends, former students and community to finish decorating her floragraph, remember her spirit, and honor her life-saving gift.  The day was filled with cultural traditions to honor Rachel including a drum song and dance by the MTS performing arts group and a song penned for Rachel by friend Miss Autumn. Her floragraph was then completed by a group of her former students and her family.

We would like to thank the Givens family, Cinnamon Bear Enos, and the Muckleshoot Tribal School for welcoming us into their community with open arms, sharing their culture with us, and helping us celebrate Rachel’s life and legacy.

Click here to view more photos from the event on our Facebook page.

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The Muckleshoot Tribal School performaning arts group opens the event with a drum song and dance
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LCNW Family Services Specialist Val Maury helps Rachel’s former students decorate her floragraph
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Rachel’s friend Autumn McCloud sings a song she wrote for Rachel in the Muckleshoot language