Together, let’s recognize and honor our nation’s first peoples.
November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time when we pay tribute to the rich ancestry, history, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of North America. Throughout the month, schools, community organizations and cultural institutions around the country provide lessons, events, resources, and activities that highlight Indigenous experiences and perspectives for people of all ages.
Celebration of National Native American Heritage Month dates back to May 1916, when New York became the first state to recognize “American Indian Day.” Dr. Arthur C. Parker, archeologist, historian, Seneca Nation tribesman, and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, NY, is credited for helping to get the holiday officially recognized in New York. Dr. Parker also advocated for federal recognition of American Indian Day—years later, Dr. Parker’s vision became reality in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed a joint resolution designating all of November as “National Native American Heritage Month.”
Today, as part of National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate and remember Indigenous traditions, stories, and connections to the lands that we collectively inhabit while also coming to terms with the legacy of colonialism that forcibly removed millions of people from their homes. In addition, we celebrate the Native American people, ideas, and traditions making an impact today, from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, to the countless pre-colonial Indigenous names we still use to this day, including Canarsie, Mosholu, Manhattan, and Gowanus.
To help us learn more about Indigenous peoples, histories, and traditions, we put together the following lists of books and resources for families of students in grades 3-K through 12. We hope you enjoy and learn from these outstanding books and resources—let us know in the comments section below if you have any recommendations you’d like to share!
Resources for Students
Visit In-Person (1 Bowling Green, Manhattan) or View Virtual Exhibits Online
Located in downtown Manhattan, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) houses part of the world’s most expansive collection of Indigenous artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media, covering the entire Western hemisphere. From ongoing in-person exhibitions to outstanding virtual exhibitions that can be accessed at any time, NMAI is an outstanding resource for students, teachers, and families alike who are seeking more information regarding Indigenous traditions, perspectives, and more!
New York State Museum (Online)
The New York Museum’s Contemporary Native American Art Collection honors the craftsmanship and artistic innovation of New York State’s First Nations. Featuring over 130 objects, the collection offers insight into the lasting legacy, evolution, and survival of tribal traditions over the years. In addition to photos from select works, the Museum’s exhibition website also features a Teacher’s Guide and a Visual Thinking Strategies guidebook for educators seeking to incorporate this exhibition into their classrooms.
Available for the City’s K–12 teachers, students, and students’ families, the DOE’s “American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Heritage Month” collection on WeTeachNYC features lesson plans, videos, news articles, and primary sources that can help enrich your understanding of the challenges and contributions of Native Americans throughout history and into the present day.
The National Archives (Online)
Home to hundreds of thousands of U.S. Government records relating to Native Americans, from as early as 1774 through the mid-1990s, the National Archives can be an incredible resource for anyone seeking details regarding particular tribes, individuals, or laws. These include every treaty ever signed with Native Americans, records from the Indian Schools, Indian Census Rolls, and Bureau of Indian Affairs records.
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (Online)
This website provides public access to digital copies of all the ratified United States treaties signed with Native Americans alongside key historic works that provide context to the agreements made. You will also be able to look at which historical and present day tribes are named in these treaties, and you can even enter your zip code to explore the land transfer agreements that relate to where you currently live.
History Hub (Online)
On this website, you can learn about finding and managing Indigenous records. Have questions about specific Native American tribes and events? Here, you can ask a question, help answer open questions, read research tips, and search other queries that people have asked in the past.
PBS Collection (Online)
Through PBS, we have access to this special collection of films, short stories, and resources that commemorate the history, culture, and traditions of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. From stories about Native Americans in urban areas and sports leagues, to documentaries about Native American Boarding Schools, this site has a great collection of content for students, teachers, and families alike. You can even check out #NativeInspired recipes from PBS Food!
American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Online)
Explore how Native American peoples and cultures have been represented in both non-Native-produced and Native-created public broadcasting programs. Each section features a range of radio and television programs that cover key events or issues important to Native peoples. Additionally, this online exhibit explores how mainstream American public media and media produced by Native Americans depict and document Indigenous peoples in ways that either confirm or reject stereotypes.
Booklists for Young Readers
Early Elementary School (Grades 3-K through 2)
- 47,000 Beads by Koja and Angel Adeyoha; art by Holly McGillis
- Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer by Traci Sorell; art by Natasha Donovan
- Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; art by Juana Martinez-Neal
- Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew; art by Joe Morse
- Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story by Donald Uluadluak; art by Qin Leng
- Rabbit’s Snow Dance by Joseph and James Bruchac; art by Jeff Newman
- Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief and Rosemary Wells; art by Gary Kelley
- Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie; art by Yuyi Morales
- We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; art by Michaela Goade
- When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton; art by Gabrielle Grimard
Elementary School (Grades 3–5)
- The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
- Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac; art by Dan Andreasen
- Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young
- I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
- JoJo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley; art by Tara Audibert
- A Native American Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Rocky Landon and David MacDonald
- Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorris
- Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith
- We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell; art by Frané Lessac
- Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller by Doreen Rappaport; art by Linda Kukuk
Middle School (Grades 6–8)
- Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitich Smith
- The Barren Grounds (Book 1 of the Misewa Saga) by David A. Robertson
- Borders by Thomas King; art by Natasha Donovan
- The Case of Windy Lake: A Mighty Muskrats Mystery by Michael Hutchinson
- Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer
- How I Became a Ghost—A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle
- In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III
- My Name’s Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
- The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
- Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers: Volume 1, edited by Arigon Starr
High School (Grades 9–12)
- Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley
- Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger; art by Rovina Cai
- Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
- Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones
- A Girl Called Echo: Pemmican Wars Vol. 1 by Katherena Vermette; art by Donovan Yaciuk and Scott B. Henderson
- Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth
- House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz; adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
- Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
We hope you and your family enjoy and learn from these resources and books as you commemorate Native American history throughout November and beyond!
Know any other family-friendly resources and events that could be used to celebrate Native American heritage? Let us know in the comments below!
On behalf of the DOE, we wish everyone a wonderful National Native American Heritage month!
Banner photo, “Sassafras,” by dchrisoh. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Flickr.
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