History of the Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month.
But it hasn’t always been. In fact, that designation is relatively new, not appearing nationwide until 1990.
Previously, individual states decided whether or not to dedicate a day or a week to honor Native Americans. New York was the first state to do so, with “American Indian Day” (the second Saturday of May) in 1916.
Sixty years later, in 1976 (the United States’ bicentennial anniversary) Congress authorized a “Native American Awareness Week.” That first nationally recognized week was observed in early October 1976.
Finally, in 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating the month of November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations (with varying names, such as “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1990.
In addition to recognizing November as the Native American Heritage Month, Congress designated the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day each year as “Native American Heritage Day,” beginning in 2009.
One important part of honoring Native American heritage this month is recognizing the influence of Native Americans on today’s world. Here are some of the many ways our modern lives have been shaped by Native American heritage:
Native American Influence on Modern America
Sixty percent of the world’s food supply comes from Native American agricultural methods, primarily those for corn and potatoes.
Contact with Native Americans also introduced the world to beans, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, nuts, melons, cranberries, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, as well as the raising of turkeys and honey bees for food sources.
Canoeing/kayaking, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and lacrosse all come from Native American transportation methods and leisure activities.
According to Benjamin Franklin, the concept of the federal government, in which certain powers are given to a central government and all other powers are reserved for the states, was borrowed from the system of government used (and still in use) by the Iroquois League of Nations.
Native Americans are credited with introducing the world to such diverse products as rubber, cotton, baby bottles, pest control, chewing gum, tobacco, cigars, and pipe smoking, among others.
Teaching Students about Native American Heritage
Scholars estimate that there were 1.5 million to 50 million indigenous people in North America when Europeans first made contact.
In studying the early Native Americans, anthropologists and geographers divide the indigenous population into “cultural regions.” Cultural regions are general groupings of neighboring peoples who shared similar habitats and characteristics. Groupings vary slightly, but scholars typically refer to 10-12 culture areas in North America.
Cultural regions typically include:
- Northwest Coast
- Great Plains
- Eastern Woodlands
- California Intermountain
Free Trilingual Printable
Use this FREE printable to guide your children/students in researching the various cultural regions of Native Americans during the Native American Heritage Month.
Simply download the file, then print the research recording sheet in the appropriate language. English, French, and Spanish are provided. You may wish to print the open-ended (blank) writing sheet for additional research.
Provide each student with a research recording sheet. Assign each student or group of students one Native American cultural region to research.
Students begin by coloring their region on the map.
Next, students conduct library and internet research to complete all sections of their research recording sheet. Provide open-ended writing sheets, as needed, for additional writing.
When students have completed their research, each student or group may present their findings to the class (or to the family, for homeschoolers).
Finally, compile all research sheets into one class booklet and review throughout the Native American Heritage Month!
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Welcome to our third annual celebration of Native American Heritage Month! All month long we’ll be sharing posts about sharing these rich cultures with kids. Find our full schedule of posts below, and don’t forget to link up your own as well! We’re also having a giveaway (see below for details and to enter!) You can find even more ideas on our Native/Indigenous Cultures Pinterest board:
This post is also part of our series Global Learning for Kids. Each month we will feature a country or cultural region and host a link party to collect posts about teaching kids about that it – crafts, books, lessons, recipes, etc. This creates a one-stop place full of information about the country.
This month we are learning all about the indigenous cultures of the Americans, so link up below any old or new posts designed to teach kids about these diverse cultures – crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music and more!
Open Wide the World on Multicultural Kid Blogs
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes
Kid World Citizen
Colours of Us
Crafty Moms Share
Crafty Moms Share
Gianna the Great
All Done Monkey
Creative World of Varya
From MotherTongues: Himdag Walk in Balance T-Shirt (women’s or unisex, S-XL) US & Canada shipping only
From Quarto Knows: Native North Americans by Joe Fullman & History of Indian Tribes of North America, 3 Volume Set by McKenney and Hall US shipping only
From Abrams Books: Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S.D. Nelson, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III, & Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson & illustrated by David Shannon US shipping only
From Firefly Books: Ojibwa: People of Forests and Prairies, Iroquois: People of the Longhouse, & Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America all by Michael G. Johnson US & Canada shipping only
From Daria Music: Set of 2 Dance Whistle Kits from Crazy Crow Trading Post US shipping only
From Wisdom Tales Press: Red Cloud’s War: Brave Eagle’s Account of the Fetterman Fight by Paul Goble & Indian Boyhood: The True Story of a Sioux Upbringing by Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa) US shipping only
From Wisdom Tales Press: Indian Boyhood: The True Story of a Sioux Upbringing by Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), Custer’s Last Battle: Red Hawk’s Account of the Battle of Little Bighorn by Paul Goble, & Horse Raid: The Making of a Warrior by Paul Goble US shipping only
From Interlink Books: Pocket Timeline of Ancient Mexico by Penny Bateman US shipping only
From Kid World Citizen: Machu Picchu Lesson: Teach about the Incas in Peru! Reading, Crossword, Coloring (English & Spanish versions)
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