Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

As we begin the month of November, we also begin Native American Heritage Month—an opportunity to deepen our shared understanding and awareness of the history, present and future of Native Peoples in our country. And, in doing so, we celebrate the many treasures Native Peoples provide to our world. We also can continue building towards real, productive community that can acknowledge history and build a more just future.

This activity is also part of our free November activity calendar. Need a copy? Visit tinkergarten.com/calendar to get yours!

The Guide

Build a foundation of knowing and respecting Native Peoples.

Start by teaching children real stories and truths about Native and Indigenous peoples, both from the past and the present. The more our children can be curious and aware about people for their strengths and rich history, the more they will push back on stereotypes and absorb the real history in a way that makes them compelled to act. 

Seek out events.

Look for events celebrating Native communities at National Parks, local greenspaces and more. We recommend setting aside some time to better understand the Complex History of National Parks and greenspaces, too.

Show kids examples of JOY and Native American identity!  

Read great children's books.

Read books that help children come to know about Native Peoples and prepare them to push back against stereotypes. For starters, check out this list of 18 beautiful picture books by Native authors about Native protagonists assembled by Tinkergarten teammates, Erika McLemore (Creek-Seminole) and Cholena Smith-Boyd (Shinnecock Indian Nation). 

As you select more books on your own, consult a reputable resource like this Embrace Race article by Dr. Debbie Reese, a researcher focused on representation of Native Americans in children’s literature. Through her expert advice, my family has learned how to pick books that are about specific tribes or Native peoples, avoiding the kind of generalizations that lead to stereotypes.

Learn about the People(s) who live or lived on the land in your area. 

Use an app like native-land.ca to find out which people live/lived and which languages are/were spoken on the land on which you live. 

Then, learn more about those People(s). Search for “native people from {city, state or region}” or “indigenous people from {city, state or region}. Then, look for historically accurate accounts of how those people thrived, being aware of the limitations of the perspective of whomever has created them.

If you have local historical societies, ask for information about those Native people(s) and encourage them to invest even more in developing resources to help the community understand the People(s) who live and lived where you now live.

Share what you are learning with others to inspire them, too!

Map your outdoor space.

Create a map of your yard, local park or favorite outdoor space, including identifying the Native People or Peoples who lived and now live in the area as part of your map. Download a template to help you get started in this Map Your Outdoor Space DIY activity.

Incorporate Native history into your outdoor adventures. 

As you are walking in a forest or along a river in your area, share something you’ve learned about the Native people who live/lived and what makes/made them special as a group or society. You’ll find more tips in teammate Erika McLemore’s helpful article on the topic. 

Continue the learning. 

Read more from Indigenous Vision about how to build inclusive communities and support Indigenous youth. 

Why is this activity great for kids?

Building a Shared History

Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, is quoted as saying, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.” 

There are more than 550 federally recognized indigenous Nations in the United States today with their own governments, economies, rights and responsibilities, and yet most children grow up not knowing much about these nations. Further, we all live, walk and play on land that is the ancestral home to one or more Native Peoples whose wisdom, way of living and relationship with the land is part of the place where we live and has so much to offer to us today.

We know that we can start early to help children understand and build a more full and accurate history of our country by helping them to know more about Native peoples—either as a mirror of their own Native identity or as a window into the history, present and future of their Native community members.

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