Welcome to November. Thoughts of pumpkin pie, cornbread, and turkey tempt your tastebuds. The kids come home with drawings of the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving. Perhaps, you play the Peanuts Thanksgiving special as a tradition. As you navigate your way through this holiday month, keep in mind it is also Native American Heritage Month.
With many November traditions bearing the influence of the early Native Americans, it is entirely fitting to pair up Native American Heritage Month with November. Yet, often our stories of the Native Americans, their rich cultures, the uniqueness of each tribe, and their stories are lost. Could it be the history of genocide, the broken treaties, and the mistreatment of their people create our silence? Is it some need to not mention our ancestors’ actions that cause us to stop our stories of the Native Americans or wash over what they have endured?
This is the month we break that silence and teach our children about the people who lived on this land tens of thousands of years ago. Below are some ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.
*Note: Some of these are geared toward an older audience versus children. Pre-screen before showing movies or reading to your youth.
Watch Native American Films
Ensure what you are watching is of integrity. Many films, both aged and more recent, broadly stereotype Native Americans or are inaccurate. If you are participating in Native American Heritage Month, make sure the films are appropriately made.
- Brother Bear: Aimed for children, this is a great one to watch with younger kids. The film explores totems and stands in contrast to many of the lessons taught in western society.
- Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee: This film is based on the book with the same name, written by Dee Brown in 1970. Not suitable for young children. For adults and older teenagers, this movie teaches a very painful moment in history.
- Rumble: The documentary explores the influence of Native Americans on all types of music genres. There is explicit language in the film, as one would expect when interviewing rock artists and others in the industry.
Read Native American Books or Stories
Again, please review before reading the books with your kids. There are places teaching and printing inaccurate information and teaching it as truth. Make sure what you are reading is of sound quality.
- When We Were Alone – This award-winning story tells of Cree history through the relationship of a grandmother and her grandchild. For your convenience, the story also has a supplemental book discussion guide for navigating the difficult conversations that may arise. The story is written for K-3rd grade.
- Chickadee – Aimed for children around the age of 9, the book takes place around the same time as Little House on the Prairie. Written by Louise Erdrich, the story follows the life of Chickadee, who has been separated from his brother and details his journey to reunite.
- Dreaming in Indian – Another award-winning book, this story is perfect for middle schoolers. Unlike much middle school non-fiction, this book is in vibrant colors, telling the stories of non-stereotypical Native Americans.
- All the Real Indians Died Off – This book challenges what we have been taught and many myths portrayed about Native Americans and their history. Because of the nature of the material and the uncomfortable topics covered, this is recommended for high school kids to adults.
Cooking Native American Recipes
Most people have heard of frybread or variations of recipes with corn, but there are a plethora of other recipes that can be used to experience some of the various recipes of Native American people. First Nations provides cookbooks in a PDF version for you to find recipes.
- One such was created with the Oneida Reservation in mind, utilizing local fruits and vegetables.
- Another provides a variety of Navajo dishes, showcasing recipes using juniper and squash.
- The final option has food featured from numerous tribes, giving the opportunity to cook specifically to a tribe you may be reading about or studying.
Go Exploring Yourself!
Finally, go online and search for lesson plans, museums, or activities. Again, be aware there are places teaching inaccurate history largely due to the uncomfortable feelings associated with atrocities of the past and those still being committed today. Yet, this is the history of our land, as unspeakable as it is.
Native Americans continue to have much to teach us about listening, respect, vision, and living as one with Mother Earth and our Creator. With November being Native American Heritage Month, it is our month to listen.