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How Teachers Are Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Looking for ways to celebrate Indigenous People's Day in your classroom? These resources will help you get started!

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a moment to celebrate the history and contributions of Native American communities, and recognize the truth of how Indigenous peoples in the Americas have been treated. 

Thanks to ongoing efforts by activists like Millie Ketcheschawno and groups like Resistance 500, over 130 cities and 14 states celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day, giving teachers of all backgrounds a unique opportunity to elevate Indigenous voices and teach students about their culture and history.

In the Classroom

“In history class, another student once said that without Columbus there would be no us or the United States today. That really got under my skin; I don’t think he knew what really happened.”
    — Citlaly Patricia Ortega of the Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. This quote was taken when she was a student at John F. Kennedy High School.

Traditionally, the American school system has largely forgotten or grossly misrepresented Native American people, their cultures, and their histories. A 2015 study by Pennsylvania State University found that 87% of the references to Native Americans in state standards  are in a pre-1900s context, with no mention of Native Americans’ accomplishments in the 20th and 21st century.

“Student textbooks I have encountered often leave out many important people, places, leaders, events, losses, and triumphs of Indigenous People.” —Mr. Stohl, American History Means Indigenous History!

In response, many educators are finding ways to introduce Native American voices, narratives, and perspectives. By sourcing Books that Celebrate Indigenous Brilliance for their students, partnering with Indigenous local leaders for semester long projects, comparing Indigenous poetry, dance, and song to United States primary source documents, and many other creative teaching practices, these educators are bringing Native American stories into their classrooms.

"I believe the voices of the Indigenous community should have more representation in the classroom, and we should no longer look to non-Indigenous people to learn about Indigenous culture." —Ms. Garcia, Indigenous Stories by Indigenous Authors

Classroom Resources

  • Native Knowledge 360° was created by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and has educational materials, virtual student programs, and teacher training programs that challenge common misconceptions and highlight historical and contemporary Native American narratives.
  • Living with the Land Lesson Plan: In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Illuminative partnered with Amplifier and Nia Tero to create a project-based lesson plan asking students: How does honoring and restoring land stewardship to Native Americans impact human lives and property, biodiversity, and air and water quality?
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resources: This selection of lessons, books, and films by the Zinn Education Project helps students critically analyze the history of Columbus and understand the meaning of Indigenous People’s Day.
  • Whose Land Are We On? Dr. Emma Humphries recommends starting close to home when learning about Native American history. This website maps Indigenous territories all around the world and is searchable by address.
  • Wisconsin First Nations Education: This collection was created to give educators and pre-service teachers an accurate and authentic way to start teaching about the American Indian Nations of Wisconsin.

Teachers, create a project to help bring Native American history into your classroom.

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