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Native American heritage

November is National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. Education World offers 12 lessons to help students learn about Native American history and cultures. Included: Activities that involve students in dramatizing folktales, learning new words, preparing traditional foods, and much more!

How did National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month get started? A brief time line illustrates some of the key events on the way to that designation:

  • At the turn of the 20th century, people began making proposals for a day to honor Native Americans.
  • In 1914, Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfoot tribe, rode horseback from state to state in the hope of gaining support for a day of tribute.
  • The following year, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe, persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to designate a day of recognition for Native Americans.
  • New York was the first state to observe American Indian Day in 1916. Over the years, other states followed suit in designating a day to honor Native Americans.
  • In 1990, President George Bush expanded the celebration for the entire month of November as "National American Indian Heritage Month."

Education World offers a dozen activities to help teachers celebrate and study Native American traditions and cultures! A brief description of each activity is provided below. Click any headline for a complete teaching resource!

Dramatizing folktales, legends, and myths
Students read and act out folktales from a variety of Native American cultures. (Grades 3-5, 6-8)

By the numbers
Students learn about the populations of Native Americans in different states and practice reading a table. (Grades 3-5, 6-8)

Native American recipes
Help students follow recipes to prepare foods that are popular in some Native American cultures. (Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

What's in a name?
Students learn the origins of the names of U.S. states, focusing on names that were derived from Native American words. (Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

Code talkers
Students learn about the Navajo code talkers and have fun using a Navajo code talkers' dictionary to create and decode secret messages! (Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

Native American misconceptions
Highlight American Indian stereotypes in students' drawings of an Indian child at home. (Grades Pre-K, K-2, 3-5)

Ball and triangle game
Students create a modern-day version of a game that was popular among some Indian children. (Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8)

Design a Navajo rug -- A lesson in symmetry
This extensive lesson explores different types of Navajo rug designs. (Grades 3-5, 6-8)

Native American glossary
Help students create a glossary of words used in the English language that have Native American origins. (Grades 3-5, 6-8)

Oral histories
Students interview local Native Americans to learn about their history, culture, and contributions to the region. (Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

Fun with numbers
Students write the Lakota Sioux words for number sentences. (Grades 3-5)

Native American word search
Students search this puzzle for the names of 20 of the most populous Native American groups in the United States today. (Grades 3-5, 6-8)


Read More About It!

Don't miss Education World's special Native American theme page and our Thanksgiving theme page!


Lois Lewis
Education World®
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