Celebrate and Commemorate Native American & Alaska Native Heritage All Month Long!
November is Native American & Alaska Native Heritage Month—an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the rich and diverse cultures, languages, and histories of Indigenous peoples across the United States. It is a time to honor Indigenous culture makers, visionaries, activists, and leaders—past and present—while amplifying the contemporary voices of Native Americans and their communities.
Originally conceived of in 1915 as a single day recognition of Native peoples’ contributions to the development of the United states, Dr. Arthur C. Parker—a Seneca Indian and the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, NY—convinced the Boy Scouts of America to host a First Americans Day. This evolved over the course of the 20th century, taking place on different dates in different states and under a variety of names, until 1990 when President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as National Native American Heritage Month.
This annual occurrence is also a time to acknowledge the losses suffered through disease, warfare, and forced assimilation stemming from the colonization of North America by Europeans. In that same spirit, we acknowledge and honor the Haudenosaunee peoples, specifically the Kanien’keha:ka, or Mohawk tribe, on who’s ancestral land we in the North Country live, and the local communities of Ganienkeh, Akwesasne, Kahnawake, and Kanesatake in both the US and neighboring areas of Canada.
Use the classroom-ready resources, books, and activities below to learn about Native American and Alaska Native histories and cultures, past and present, this November and beyond.
Talking About Race: The Clutes | Mohawk Family From Akwesasne
Grades PreK-3 Meet the Clutes, a traditional Mohawk family from the Akwesasne territory in northern New York State. In this video, the Clute family talks about respect, stereotypes, fairness, justice, and resilience in direct, age-appropriate, and honest ways as they celebrate their culture and community. This video is part of a growing set of resources from the Sesame Workshop Coming Together initiativewhich provides tools, sparks conversations and supports kids as they grow into allies and advocates.
Grades K-2 Informational text and Alaska Native culture form the basis of the groundbreaking Molly of Denali series and its educational resources. The Molly of Denali collection on PBS LearningMedia offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities so that educators can utilize the series in the classroom.
Grades 6-12 Follow along as scientists make eye-opening discoveries about pre-colonial Indigenous populations in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Working diligently to challenge the idea that indigenous people are relative newcomers to the Adirondacks, these researchers use sediment cores from lakes in the region and artifacts found on high ground to reveal a different timeline. Their discoveries support what John Fadden and his family, of the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota, New York, have been telling those who would listen for years: that humans arrived in the Adirondacks at the end of the last Ice Age, and some of their descendants are still here.
Grades 6-12 Native America reaches back 15,000 years, examining ancient city planning and early systems of science and spirituality and extends to present-day exploration of Indigenous knowledge and language preservation. This collection includes all four episodes of Native America season 1 in full, stand-alone video clips from season 2, discussion questions, hands-on activities and more.
The American Buffalo | Ken Burns in the Classroom collection
Grades 6-12 The American Buffalo takes viewers on a journey through more than 10,000 years of North American history and across some of the continent’s most iconic landscapes, tracing the American buffalo’s evolution, its significance to the Indigenous people and landscape of the Great Plains, its near extinction, and the efforts to bring the magnificent mammals back from the brink. This collection includes classroom-ready resources on Indigenous conservation, policy, and legislation, the concept of Indigenous Peoplehood, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
Grades K-2 Elizabeth Peratrovich (Raven of the Lingít Lukaadx̱.ádi Clan) is an important figure in Alaska’s history who helped pass the country’s first Anti-Discrimination Bill in 1945. Learn more about Peratrovich’s story in the Molly of Denali episode “Molly and Elizabeth.”
Grades 6-12 Examine the enigmatic life and mind of National Medal of Arts-winner Navarro Scott Momaday, the Kiowa novelist, short-story writer, essayist and poet. His Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “House Made of Dawn” led to the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. Although his heritage is a central theme, Momaday’s work asks universal questions: what are our origins and how do we connect to them through our collective memories? This PBS LearningMedia collection from the American Mastersfilm, Words from a Bear: N. Scott Momaday, illuminates how he grappled with these questions, his identity and the challenges of being a Native American artist in today’s world.
Grades 6-12 Learn about Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, elected at a time when women faced considerable opposition to taking on leadership roles. During her time in office, she helped solidify the Cherokee Nation’s political structure, expanded economic opportunities, improved health care services, and reminded people of traditional roles for women that were more empowering than those that developed over many generations of involvement with colonialist and western societies.
Native Americans Who Are Changing the World | Native America
Grades 6-12 Being Native American isn’t something that people can turn on and off — cultural ways, traditional values, and how they interact with the world around them are all factors that impact how they live their lives. In these four video clips you’ll meet Native people from around the country—from Ruth Buffalo to Betty Osceola—who are inspirational to their communities and working to make the world a better place.
Design a Poster to Honor the Indigenous Lands You Live On
Grades K-5 Land Acknowledgements have become more widespread in recent years in schools, conferences, and buildings. They are a great way to honor tribes and how they have taken care of the land through the present day. Have you ever wondered about the Indigenous lands you live on? Spend some time as a family discovering the history and culture of the tribes who cultivated the lands you live on and design a poster to honor them.
Totem Poles: Cultural Significance and Tradition | Mountain Lake Journal
Grades K-12 Join folklorist Hannah Harvester as she explores the world of Native American totem poles, guided by Abenaki woodcarver Andreé Dennis Newton. Newton shares the story of her rediscovery of the ancestral art of woodcarving totem poles—a cultural heritage passed down from her indigenous ancestors to her father, Maurice Dennis, and now to her. After watching the video, students can get involved with two hands-on activities – “Tell Your Story in Symbols!” and “Totem Pole Symbolism and Cultural Relativism”.
Lesson Plan: Iroquois or Haudenosaunee? | Native America in Upstate New York
Grades 3-8 In this video, Onondaga storyteller Perry Ground speaks to students at Gowana Middle School in Clifton Park, New York about the introduction of language into meaning and purpose of others’ identities, particularly, the name Iroquois. The people who lived on this land before colonization call themselves the Haudenosaunee. What is in the name, and how can we learn a bit more about a community through the names given to the schools and streets?
Grades 6-12 Utilizing this media gallery, students will watch the three episodes of the Unladylike2020 series of 26 short films that focus on Indigenous women heroes and explore the similarities in issues affecting these women while also identifying the qualities that made them unique. Students will explore the lives of these incredible figures through a gallery walk, discuss their findings, research events of the present, and create their own gallery walk to present their research.
Local & Statewide Native American Cultural Organizations
Akwesasne Cultural Center
The Akwesasne Library and Cultural Center is a public library and museum that serves the people of Akwesasne, the surrounding communities and the visiting public by providing access to educational and cultural resources. Located in the heart of Akwesasne, the center provides a positive space for educational purposes and is one of the cultural hubs of the community.
The Six Nations Iroquois Cultural Center, located in the Northeastern Adirondack Mountains, provides for the viewing of 3000-plus artifacts with an emphasis on the culture of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee): Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora. The museum features story telling lectures and creates educational experiences so that visitors, teachers and students may acquire the knowledge needed to better understand the history, culture, contemporary realities, and the potential futures of Native Nations.
The Seneca Art & Culture Center is a year-round interpretive facility at Ganondagan, the original site of a 17th century Seneca town that existed there peacefully more than 350 years ago. The center tells the story of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) contributions to art, culture and society for more than 2,000 years to the present day. Designed to fit into the natural landscape, the center features an interactive, multi-media Exhibit Gallery, including a changing exhibit space, Orientation Theater, auditorium, and gift shop.
The Iroquois Museum is an educational institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Iroquois culture using Iroquois art as a window to that culture. The Museum is a venue for promoting Iroquois art and artists, and a meeting place for all peoples to celebrate Iroquois culture and diversity. As an anthropological institution, it is informed by research on archaeology, history, and the common creative spirit of modern artists and craftspeople.
The New York State Museum, which explores and expresses New York State’s significant natural and cultural diversity, both past and present, features the ongoing exhibition Native Peoples of New York. Museum-goers can explore the cultural heritage of the first New Yorkers — from the Ice Age to the present — through dioramas, displays of artifacts and art, and a life-size reconstructed longhouse.
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