Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.
Celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, this holiday began as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day. This day 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 PBS and Mountain Lake PBS programs, educational resources, and more to help your family learn and celebrate this October 12th on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and beyond!
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Learning at Home programs
Watch these captivating stories featuring groundbreaking Native Americans like N. Scott Momaday and learn about Indigenous cultures from across the country, to our own community, all October long!
Monday, October 12
Growing Native | Great Lakes: Turtle Island
Over the centuries, the Great Lakes have been home to hundreds of tribes and a source of fresh water, food, and health. Indigenous creation stories describe the world came into being on a back of a turtle shell, and today they know the earth as Turtle Island. Growing Native host Stacey Thunder (Red Lake and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) guides this journey by engaging tribal voices while touring Indian country with those who still devote their lives to care for the land.
Growing Native | Oklahoma: Red People
Oklahoma is home to thirty-nine federally recognized tribes. Nowhere in North America will you find such diversity among Native Peoples, and nowhere will you find a more tragic history. Host Moses Brings Plenty (Oglala Lakota) guides this episode of Growing Native, on a journey to Oklahoma’s past and present. What he discovers among the many faces of Oklahoma culture is the determination, values and respect that tribes have brought to this land, once called Indian Territory.
For more information on the 4-part series, go to the Growing Native webpage from Vision Maker Media, where you’ll find a Viewer Discussion Guide for this episode and more. And be sure to check out Winter Count Lesson Plans – Native American Studies on PBS LearningMedia.
Tuesday, October 13
American Masters | N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear
Join us for our Learning at Home Highlight of the Week! American Masters examines 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.
To explore additional content from the documentary, go to the American Masters website. And be sure to visit the PBS LearningMedia N. Scott Momaday Collection for more educational materials related to the show.
Ohero:kon – Under the Husk
Ohero:kon – Under the Husk follows the challenging journey of two Mohawk girls as they take part in their traditional passage rites to becoming Mohawk Women. Kaienkwinehtha and Kasennakohe are childhood friends from traditional families living in the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne that straddles the U.S. / Canada border. They both take part in a four-year adolescent passage rites ceremony called Ohero:kon “Under the Husk” that has been revived in their community. This ceremony challenges them spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. It shapes the women they become.
Friday, October 30
Spotlight Special: Native American Artistry
Join Mountain Lake’s Paul Larson later this month 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. You can also view videos from this multi-part Spotlight series anytime on our website.
Mountain Lake PBS original programming
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 even more excerpts from the film on the Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America YouTube Playlist!
With lesson plans developed for grades 6-12, students and teachers alike can explore the rich themes and provocative questions raised by Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America, 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.
PBS LearningMedia Resources & Collections
Molly of Denali
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 offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities so that educators can utilize the series in the classroom.
Set in a rural Alaskan village, and featuring the adventures of Molly, her family, and friends, Molly of Denali models the many ways that children can access and create informational text in their daily lives. At the same time, the stories are infused with Alaska Native values, history, traditions, language, as well as contemporary life.
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 and classroom activities. The video clips and associated support materials bring the value of sacred origin stories and the complexity of early Native city planning to life, and culminate in hands-on activities designed to help students better understand both.
Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth and Climate
As the environmental, economic, and political consequences of climate change are felt in Alaska, the Arctic, and throughout the world, we have much to learn from both the traditional knowledge of Native peoples and ongoing scientific research. These two methods of observing nature and solving the challenges of survival can provide complementary perspectives on these issues.
The Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth and Climate Collection looks at Alaska’s unique geology and the impact of development and climate change using both of these tools, and features Alaska Native scientists who are working toward solutions.
Unladylike2020 honors the centennial of women’s suffrage. Digital resources in the Unladylike2020 Collection present the rich history of 26 little-known Progressive Era women, diverse in profession, race, ethnicity, geographical and class backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender expression, who broke barriers in then-male-dominated fields such as science, business, journalism, exploration, and the arts.
Explore featured resources in the Indigenous Women section for videos, discussion guides, and teaching tips on Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first American Indian physician and the first to found a private hospital on an American Indian reservation; Queen Lili‘uokalani was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch, of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi; and Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux author, composer, and indigenous rights activist.
New York State and Local History & 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. These media-rich resources and accompanying support materials cover 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.
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 — a mythic landscape filled with stories of both heartbreaking tragedy and undying hope. Beginning in the era when the land belonged only to American Indians and ending in the 20th century, the film is populated by unforgettable historical characters whose competing dreams transformed the land, and turned the West into a lasting symbol of the nation itself.
Delve deeper with media-rich resources and support materials in the Ken Burns in the Classroom ⎪ The West Collection. Explore featured resources, like Native Americans in the West: 1838-1900, 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.
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. You can also 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. You can also 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
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.