Commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Classroom

It is Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11. Many localities have taken steps to recognize this day, and some even choose to celebrate it instead of Columbus Day. Today is a day for learning, taking notes, reflecting, creating, and connecting with others through literature and art. It’s also a day to move from acknowledgment toward responsibility and action.

Native Americans have a complicated and lengthy history in the United States. The horrifying legacy of the brutal and systematic eradication of entire cultures exists. Then there are tales of perseverance, tenacity, and intense ties to the natural world and other people. Neither of these tales marks the beginning nor the conclusion of Indigenous history.

Educators might find it hard to know where to begin unraveling this vast tapestry. Inquiry and investigation are the first steps in every journey toward responsibility and action. You may learn more about the past and present of Indigenous Peoples by checking out the resources listed on this page. You can also engage in a few activities with your pupils to make these ideas come to life.

First, Should Columbus Day Still Play a Role in the Classroom?

The holiday of Columbus Day was created to celebrate the “discovery” of America and to acknowledge the accomplishments of Italian Americans. The purpose of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not to diminish and replace the contributions of Italian Americans. However, it can’t be the only story. We now have the potential to investigate cultural genocide, the practice of slavery, the idea of discovery, and how and at what cost these tales are created.

Remember, Vocabulary Matters.

Indigenous Peoples are groups of people who are the original occupants of a particular geographic area. Although the terms Native American and American Indian are frequently used, remember that Columbus mistakenly thought he had reached the Indian Ocean. The wisest course of action is to utilize particular tribe names.

Websites for Learning More About Indigenous Peoples

  • The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian oversees Native Knowledge 360°. Visit the highlighted resources for Unlearning Columbus Day Myths and Honoring Original Indigenous Inhabitants.
  • The Zinn Education Project favors providing a more interesting and truthful look at the past. At the same time, PBS’s Native American Heritage Collection examines Indigenous art, history, and culture as told by historians, artists, students, and scientists. Check out their resources for information on Native Americans.

Books to Read

Here are several books that can be used to educate everyone about indigenous peoples. Books by Indigenous authors that recount the histories of certain Indigenous tribes are included on each of these lists.

  • We put together this collection of 15 books by indigenous authors for the classroom.
  • The Los Angeles Public Library provides a list of higher-grade novels, the New York Public Library proposes these books for adults, and Colors of Us has a list of elementary picture books you can share with your students.

Activities to Try

Finally, you can engage in various educational activities with your students to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Month (November) and to provide your pupils a deeper understanding of Thanksgiving, American history, and environmental action.

  • Discover the continuous efforts made by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to defend their territory from environmental threats and injustice.
  • Research the 2017 trending hashtag #RealSkins, which showcases a diversity of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional attire. On a side note, the hashtag #DearNonNatives gives us a glimpse of the several problematic ways that Indigenous Peoples are portrayed in contemporary culture. (NOTE: We advise pre-screening since posts with either of these hashtags may include objectionable material.)
  • Talk about the contentious use of Native American-inspired mascots in American sports.
  • Talk about the American Library Association’s decision to change the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award’s name to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in light of the author’s views on Indigenous Peoples.
  • Utilizing the Circle of Stories tools from PBS, learn about the rich oral storytelling culture of Native Americans and develop your tales to share.
  • By creating regional maps, you may learn about the geography of Indigenous tribes.
  • Use the advice from Learning for Justice when teaching about Native American women leaders.
Choose your Reaction!