By Gabrielle Corley
From its very beginnings, America has been a nation of immigrants, with ideals that strive for tolerance and equality regardless of heritage. No other nation in the world can boast such a diverse population. It is this diversity and the contributions of people of every race, culture, ability and religion that enhance our nation’s character and strength. April is Celebrate Diversity Month. This month-long remembrance started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, there is hope that we can find a deeper appreciation of our neighbors. We may look different, speak differently, have differing abilities or lifestyles, and practice different customs, but we all have value in our multicultural society. Embracing the values of various cultures only strengthens our understanding and appreciation of the world.
St. Louis, in particular, has a long and fascinating history of diversity. Located in the center of the country and along one of the world’s longest waterway, the region has enjoyed influences from numerous races and nationalities. The story of the original inhabitants of the area begins before the arrival of explorers and pioneers, when the region was home to an enormous city called Cahokia. The city thrived on both sides of the Mississippi river for hundreds of years. In the period after the arrival of the French and Spanish explorers, the Missouri and Osage tribes dominated the St. Louis region, but by the 1820s, most tribes had headed west. The Trail of Tears, the forced march of the Cherokee nation from their homeland to the west, brought additional Native Americans through Missouri. Early European immigrants to the area included settlers from Germany, Italy, Ireland and Poland, and today’s population includes new arrivals from Bosnia, Ethiopia, Burandi, Rwanda, South Africa, Panama, and many more countries. This vibrance is part of the fabric of our many neighborhoods.
A fun way to get a peak into some of this is to view videos on the Educate.Today site that allows you to visit with immigrants from Afghanistan and Uganda, learn what food is popular in Mongolia, and get a glimpse of what life was like for the inhabitants of the Mound Builder culture in Cahokia. Educate.Today is tailored to students and learners from all walks of life and is commercial free. On the main page use the search terms ‘cultures’, diversity, or ‘respect’ and get ready for a trip around the world. You’ll learn about past immigrants to the area, hear stories from modern day immigrants, celebrate with Native American cultures, and learn about the many ways to bring diverse perspectives and disability awareness into our lives.