Native American Heritage Month

Erin ToaleBooks, Diversity Initiatives, Inside WITS, Mission & Outcomes

November is National Native American Heritage Month. The Library of Congress site is a great starting point for finding virtual events, online art exhibitions, and classroom resources. Native American Heritage month is a time for recognition of and reflection on the significant contributions the first Americans made to our country and culture. Illinois is home to the third highest population of Indigenous peoples in the United States. At WITS, we spend thus month reflecting on gratitude, continuing to promote an equity-literacy framework (in place of deficit mindsets that reinforce negative stereotypes and lead to the creation of ineffective policies that particularly harm Indigenous communities), and ensure our students are exposed to books that teach truthful history representing a variety of perspectives.

Deaf Native American, James Wooden Legs for American Society for Deaf Children
Resources for Native American Heritage Month

It is important to include accurate and complete histories of Native and Indigenous peoples in your pedagogy year-round. Native American Heritage Month is a time to pay special attention to these topics, and to uplift the voices of Indigenous creators. Be sure to utilize the classroom resources provided by Learning for Justice and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition of Illinois (#IPD4IL) has collated a calendar of events throughout the month. Well-Read Native is a book club that amplifies Indigenous academics, authors, and artists. Finally, the American Society for Deaf Children has shared a series of native cultural stories. These read-alouds feature side-by-side comparisons of Plains Indian Sign Language and American Sign Language.

Land Acknowledgements

Does your school or organization utilize land acknowledgments? Land acknowledgements honor the indigenous peoples who lived on the lands on which schools, museums, and other institutions are built. Native American Heritage month is a great opportunity to integrate this practice into your communications. The Path Toward Racial Equity: A Conversation about Land Acknowledgments, hosted by the Arts Club of Chicago, is a wonderful starting point. The panelists offer several examples of best practices, and discuss the pros and cons of common approaches. Here is a beautiful example of a land acknowledgement, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lastly, will tell you what tribal lands you occupy if you enter an address in their Territory Acknowledgement Guide.


We think Learning for Justice said it best: Teach the Truth This Thanksgiving. They write, “as you discuss Thanksgiving with students, we hope you’ll reflect and use these resources to guide them to a more comprehensive understanding. It’s critical to address the truth and violence surrounding the day while also ensuring your students feel safe and prepared. It’s also critical to uplift the voices of Indigenous people, many of whom mourn the day and the pain that accompanies it.” Little Feminist has provided guides and book lists to help your family celebrate and respect the Native land we live on this Thanksgiving. Check out Native American Children’s Books to Read All Year, Books About Native American Culture to Read This Thanksgiving, and How to Re-teach Thanksgiving: Native American Children’s Books to Inspire New Traditions.

We hope you enjoy perusing these Native American Heritage Month resources. Please share them with your peers and the young people in your life. Check out these past WITS Blogs for further teaching resources and book recommendations:

From “A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English
A Thanksgiving Lesson Plan Booklet from a Native American Perspective