Anti-Racism, K-12, Social Studies

Native American Heritage Month

In last week’s anti-racist post, I spoke about how the company Analytic Orange is revolutionizing history curriculum by ensuring multiple perspectives are included in its materials. One example is the materials for 4th grade classes in Utah that they have created to teach about the Navajo culture. During the month of November, 2020, which has been declared Native American Heritage Month in the United States, I think that it is important to acknowledge the work that we need to do to correct the over-generalizations and stereotypes regarding Native Americans that have been the norm in classrooms throughout the years, especially when we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving.

One of my good friends shared an excellent resource from PBS to use in the classroom to teach about the Wampanoag tribe, which interacted with the Pilgrims. It was the first link I added to my Thanksgiving Wakelet for this year because I felt it was so important to include the “real story” about the first Thanksgiving. We also need to educate our children about different tribes and their unique cultures, instead of perpetuating the beliefs that all Native Americans lived in teepees, wore headdresses, and were, supposedly the other 364 days of the year, warmongers.

Wyoming PBS has produced materials for that state’s students to learn more about the two tribes that reside there – the Shoshone and the Arapaho – in a unit called, “Why Teach Native American History?” The short video on the page emphasizes the points that I made above regarding stereotypes.

Another place to start is, “Rethinking Native Stories in Classrooms,” by Debbie Reese. She recommends books to read that offer more realistic representations of Native Americans. She also advises that students should learn about specific tribes, and that we should talk about Native Americans in the present tense so we don’t imply that there are no longer Native Americans in our country.

For more resources, as well as a calendar of specific events that will be celebrated throughout the month, I encourage you to visit the Native American Heritage Month website. I would also like to invite you to look at this post written by my friend, Joelle Trayers, with excellent picture book suggestions for culturally sensitive Native American units. And, if you are looking for my past anti-racist posts, you can find them all linked on this Wakelet.

image of Wampanoag winter home replica shared by Brian Herzog on Flickr

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