Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.
Observed across the United States on the second Monday in October, this holiday began as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day. This year, Indigenous Peoples’ Day falls on Monday, October 11th. It is an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the rich and diverse cultures, languages, and histories of Indigenous peoples across North America, while acknowledging 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.
Continue below for insightful documentaries, multi-media classroom resources, books, activities and more for children grades PreK-12 for this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and beyond!
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Learn About Native American History & Culture
Talking About Race: The Clutes | Mohawk Family From Akwesasne
Meet the Clutes, a traditional Mohawk family from the Akwesasne territory in northern New York State in “Talking About Race: The Clutes.” 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 initiative which provides tools, sparks conversations and supports kids as they grow into allies and advocates.
Molly of Denali Collections
Informational text and Alaska Native culture form the basis of the groundbreaking Molly of Denali series and its educational resources. The Molly of Denali PBS LearningMedia Collection offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities so that educators can utilize the series in the classroom. And for more fun, hands-on activities for young learners, and articles for grownups, check out the PBS KIDS for Parents Collection.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day | All About the Holidays
Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors indigenous people and cultures around the world. While there is no single definition for indigenous, indigenous people maintain close ties to their ancestral land and traditions. In the United States, some Americans celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or along with Columbus Day.
New York State and Local History and Government
New York State and Local History and Government is a collection of resources designed to complement the New York State Social Studies Framework for 4th Grade covering disciplinary core topics from the geography of New York State to immigration and migration. Explore featured resources in the Native American Groups and the Environment section with topics like the diverse ecosystem that Henry Hudson encountered when he arrived at Mannahatta; and video of the Oknegakdagye (Along the Water) Dancers from the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory performing a traditional Mohawk hunters’ dance.
Smithsonian: Resources for Teaching and Learning⎪Native Knowledge 360°
Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°) from the National Museum of the American Indian provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. Most Americans have only been exposed to part of the story, as told from a single perspective through the lenses of popular media and textbooks. NK360° provides educational materials, virtual student programs, and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. NK360° challenges common assumptions about Native peoples and offers a view that includes not only the past but also the vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.
Native America in the Classroom
Explore the world created by America’s First Peoples with PBS’ Native America. The four-part series reaches back 15,000 years, revealing massive cities aligned to the stars, unique systems of science and spirituality, and 100 million people connected by social networks spanning two continents. In the Native America in the Classroom Collection, you will find the program in full, along with stand-alone clips, classroom activities, and support materials bringing the value of sacred origin stories and the complexity of early Native city planning to life, culminating in hands-on activities designed to help students better understand both.
Ken Burns in the Classroom⎪The West
The West, a nine-part, 12-hour documentary film series, chronicles the turbulent history of the American West, beginning in the era when the land belonged only to American Indians and ending in the 20th century. Discover media-rich resources and support materials in the Ken Burns in the Classroom⎪The West Collection, like the Native Americans in the West: 1838-1900 media gallery, which includes videos demonstrating the distinct chapters in encounters between white Americans and Native Americans. Students will understand the forces that spurred these encounters, the traits that characterized each side’s treatment of one another, and the ultimate outcome of the American government’s strategy towards native populations.
Native American Leaders & Visionaries
Learn about Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux author, composer, and indigenous rights activist in this video from the Unladylike2020 series. Taken from her community at age 8 to attend a boarding school as part of the assimilationist policy of the U.S. government to educate Native American youth, she used her education to advocate for American Indian rights. She trained as a violinist, writing the first Native American opera, The Sun Dance Opera; published in prestigious national magazines about American Indian struggles to retain tribal identities amid pressures to assimilate into European American culture; and co-founded the National Council of American Indians to lobby for voting rights, sovereignty rights, and the preservation of Native American heritage and ways of life.
Learn about We’Wha, a Zuni Ihamana, non-binary individual, in this video from First Person: Classroom. Explore the life and lasting impact of the famous Two-Spirit Zuni cultural ambassador, negotiator, religious leader, weaver, and potter using primary sources, discussion questions, teaching tips, vocabulary, and a short activity. In the late 1800s, while the white settlers, soldiers, and government agents were invading of lands west of the Mississippi River—suppressing tribal cultures, forcing Native people into schools and onto reservations, and slaughtering those who would not capitulate, We’Wha traveled to Washington, D.C. to help document Indigenous Zuni culture. We’Wha neither conformed to Native American stereotypes or to Anglo-American norms.
Susan La Flesche Picotte
Susan La Flesche Picotte lived on the Nebraska frontier during a time of violent change, growing up on the Omaha Reservation against the backdrop of the Dawes Act of 1887 which sought to force indigenous tribes onto reservations and foster their assimilation into white society. As a child, La Flesche Picotte watched an Indian woman die because the white doctor never showed up: “It was only an Indian and it did not matter.” So she became a doctor herself, breaking through barriers of gender and race as the first American Indian physician and the first to found a private hospital on an American Indian reservation. Learn more about Susan La Flesche Picotte with this video from Unladylike2020.
N. Scott Momaday
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 Masters film, 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.
Activities, Books & More
8 Children’s Books to Celebrate Native Heritage
For centuries, Indigenous Peoples have been intentionally silenced and invisibilized; their stories stolen and hidden. It is more important than ever to read books written by and about Indigenous Peoples highlighting their heritage, cultural pride, and strength. Here are eight #OwnVoices books to honor and celebrate Native heritage not only this month, but year-round!
Create a Yup’ik Dance Fan
Molly learns the Seal Dance when she visits a new friend. The Seal Dance is a traditional song and dance performed by Unangax Alaska Native people. Explore a different Alaska Native dance tradition with your child by making a Yup’ik dance fan.
Amplifying Indigenous Experiences | PBS All-Stars Lessons
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.
Mountain Lake PBS Original Programs
Spotlight Special: Native American Artistry
Join Mountain Lake producer Paul Larson for Spotlight Special: Native American Artistry. Follow along as Native American artists discuss their work, including pottery and painting, the historical relevance of the pieces, and the updating of traditional motifs for modern viewers. Featured artists include Mohawk cradleboard maker Babe Hemlock, Mohawk pottery artist Natasha Smoke Santiago, Mohawk storyteller Kay Olan, and Seneca basket maker Penelope Minner.
Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America
Samuel de Champlain is known as the “Father of French America,” the founder of Québec, a brave explorer, expert cartographer and a visionary who worked tirelessly to create a self-sustaining European settlement in North America. Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America tells the story of Champlain and the people who taught him how to explore and survive in the wilds of North America. This documentary is the first historically accurate, animated documentary on Samuel de Champlain broadcast in the United States and Canada. View excerpts from the film on the Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America YouTube Playlist.
Explore additional educational resources featuring lesson plans, developed for grades 6-12, considering the rich themes and provocative questions raised by the film, including topics in history, geography, language arts, mathematics, science, technology and the arts.
Stay and You Shall Find It: Exploring the Role of Storyteller
In this film clip, Anadibijou, the Sagamo of the Innus, tells Champlain a mythic story. Utilizing the lesson plan, Stay and You Shall Find It: Exploring the Role of Storyteller, students will consider the storyteller/audience relationship and the purpose of the story.
By using a graphic organizer, students will identify the elements of the relationship and analyze the structure and sequencing of the story in order to create a modern day version of the story.
After viewing the accompanying film clip, in which Champlain first makes contact with the Indigenous people living in North America in 1603, students will engage in a hands-on learning experience exploring unfamiliar language, ultimately relating their observations of the exercise to the cultural differences experienced in the film.
There is great complexity in the first meeting of cultures. Before societies can pursue their own goals, they must find a level of understanding and trust with the members of the group they encounter. Through the First Contact lesson plan, students should enhance their willingness and ability to meet the challenges of multiculturalism.
Local & State-Wide 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 Akwesasne Cultural Center provides a positive space for educational purposes and is one of the cultural hubs of the community. Learn more by visiting their Facebook page.
The Six Nations Indian Museum
The Six Nations Indian Museum, 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. Visit the museum’s Facebook page for more information on current initiatives and more.
The Seneca Art & Culture Center
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. Learn more by visiting their Facebook page.
The Iroquois Indian Museum
The Iroquois Indian 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. Visit the museum’s Facebook page for more information on current initiatives and more.
The New York State Museum
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. These exhibits convey the changing lifeways of Native Peoples from small, family based groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturists living in large villages housing hundreds to thousands of people. Native People today live in the modern world but maintain deeply held connections to their past through culture, religion, and government. Visit the museum’s Facebook page for updates on programming, exhibitions and more.