Thousands of local high school students are learning about American history in school this year. As they explore the different cultures in the United States, there is one culture in particular that teachers and textbooks don't seem to spend enough time on. Despite the knowledge that Native Americans were already here when Christopher Columbus discovered America, and the countless times that the colonists took advantage of the Native Americans, schools barely scratch the surface on this topic.

To promote awareness about Native American culture, Belinda Patterson is coordinating Native American Heritage Day on Saturday at Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown. The event, which will largely focus on the Iroquois Indians, will begin with a potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m, which will give people of all ethnicities the opportunity to share a dish from their own cultures.

Patterson said, "We're hoping to generate interest in where one came from and to share it through food."

After the potluck, the audience is encouraged to participate in Native American dancing.

Event coordinators also created posters to portray certain aspects of Native American history. One focuses on the portage, a trail for transporting goods before there were roads, while another highlights the relationship between the United States government and the Iroquois Confederacy.

Patterson is not only aiming to delve deeper into Native American history, and that of other cultures, she also is trying to show people where Native Americans are today. Most Americans are ignorant of the current standing of these tribes.

"People still ask me if I live in a teepee," Patterson said. "We are trying to put out as much knowledge as possible in one night."

The United States is known for being a blend of cultures, so it is time for people to recognize and understand historic cultures and where they are today.

Sarah Abell is a junior at Nardin Academy.