November is National American Indian Heritage Month, which celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the peoples who were the original inhabitants, explorers, and settlers of the United States.
“National American Indian Heritage Month” had its origins in 1986 when Congress passed Pub. L. 99-471 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week of November 23-30, 1986 as “American Indian Week.” As directed by Congress, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 5577 in November 1986 proclaiming the first American Indian Week.
Both law and proclamation recognized the American Indians as the first inhabitants of the lands that now constitute the United States as well as making mention of their contributions to American society. Many of the foods we eat and the medicines and remedies we use were introduced by Indians and more than one highway follows an Indian trail. Indians make contributions in every area of endeavor and American life, and our literature and all our arts draw upon Indian themes and wisdom. Countless American Indians have served in our Armed Forces and have fought valiantly for our country.
Check out the following resources for teaching Native American Indian Heritage Month.
- The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
- The National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360° is a new initiative to help educators teach about American Indians. Misinformation about Native peoples persists in textbooks and teachers lack resources, so the NK360° team “looked for the gaps” as a way to fulfill this real need.
- Celebrate the history, culture, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives in a special collection of films, short stories and resources from PBS and from PBS Learning Media.
- Lessons of Our Land from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation is designed to assist Pre-K through grade 12 teachers incorporate Native American stories, lessons, and games into regular classroom instruction.
- For more local information on Maine native Americans, check out the Abbe Museum website which offers resources and events and the Hudson Museum’s website, which has a variety of resources to support American Indian Heritage Month.
- The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal (PMPortal.org) is a rich resource for learning about the language and culture of Passamaquoddy and Maliseet peoples in what is now Maine and New Brunswick. Also, Maine Calling had a feature about preserving Wabanaki languages.
- To view an interactive map of former Native American lands, language area, and treaty area, check out this Canadian-based resource.
- The National Council for the Social Studies recommends the Native American Heritage Month Teacher Resources website and this EDSITEment Teacher’s Guide.
- The National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) have put together a blog of resources as well as a Resolution on Native American Literature.
- The Colonial Williamsburg YouTube channel has the following videos:
- CW Kids Ask: What are American Indian people’s lives like? – American Indian people are some of the most diverse members of the population today. In this livestream, we will have an opportunity to meet and learn from some of Colonial Williamsburg’s American Indian interpreters as they tell us about their culture and daily life in both the past and present.
- American Indian Foodways – Join Kody Grant, Martin Saniga, and Talon Silverhorn as they discuss and demonstrate indigenous food preparation in this new video from the American Indian Initiative.
- Q&A with the American Indian Initiative – In eighteenth-century Williamsburg, you could find American Indians from various nations and tribes walking our streets, and that remains true today. Join two members of Colonial Williamsburg’s American Indian Initiative and ask your questions about native peoples from history and today.
- Tour the Capitol Building – Join Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Kody Grant, as they provide a tour of the Capitol building from an American Indian perspective.
- The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal (org) is a very rich resource for learning about the language and culture of Passamaquoddy and Maliseet peoples in what is now Maine and New Brunswick.
- Maine Calling had a feature recently about preserving Wabanaki languages: https://www.mainepublic.org/show/maine-calling/2021-09-15/wabanaki-languages-effort-to-preserve-lost-tribal-dialects-pass-them-to-future-generations
- Resolution on Native American Literature by the National Council for Teachers of English
- This has many resources for English teachers: https://ncte.org/blog/2015/11/focus-on-native-american-heritage/