Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday of October. Chances are, your kids have only been given a quick (and possibly inaccurate) overview of the history of Native Americans. Here are some ways to spend the day learning more about the cultures and traditions of Indigenous people.
Read stories written by Indigenous authors
So much of the Indigenous history that children are taught in schools involves events that took place before 1900. Because of this, kids may be unaware that many Indigenous communities currently reside in the United States. That’s why it’s important to expose them to present-day Indigenous authors. Not sure where to start? We Are Teachers has 15 great book suggestions. Reading about the communities can spark conversations with your kids about similarities and differences between their own lives and those of the children in the books.
Find out which Indigenous lands you live on
It’s important to know which people once lived on the land we currently reside. Native Land is a website and app that allows users to access the Indigenous history of their zip code. Once you discover who inhabited your area, do research with your kids about that particular tribe or tribes.
Learn about the Taíno people
The Taíno are the people that Christopher Columbus misnamed “Indians” when he landed on the island of Puerto Rico. We often hear about Columbus discovering America, but many of us have not been taught about the Taíno themselves. YouTube is full of video resources and Multicultural Kids Blogs has information and activities, including a tutorial for building a Taíno sensory village with your kids.
Check out the Native American Heritage Collection
PBS’ Native American Heritage Collection website showcases Indigenous art, history and culture, with scientists, historians and artists contributing. The series is categorized by grade level and covers topics like Native dances, basket weaving and the real history of Thanksgiving.
Have a budding green thumb in the family? Planting Native plant species as a family is an earth-friendly way to honor Indigenous communities. Milkweed and pawpaw trees are two popular varieties to consider. For more information on Native plants and how to care for them, visit the U.S. Forest Service’s website.
Watch Molly of Denali
The PBS cartoon Molly of Denali is one of the first children’s television programs to feature a lead character who is Native American. Children will love watching Molly, her dog, Suki, and friends explore Alaska with the help of resources like maps, guides and knowledge from their elders. If your kids are interested in learning more about Molly’s Native Alaskan culture, including the Athabascan language that she speaks, PBS has games, recipes, printables and other activities to check out on their website.
Encourage your kids to use their voices to fight for the rights of Indigenous Americans. Your family’s activism doesn’t have to be complicated. Raising money for organizations like the Native American Rights Fund and the First Nations Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund is a good place to start. Older kids can educate themselves about present day movements, like the Standing Rock Water Protectors, and research ways to become activists in their own communities.
Want to encourage other states and cities to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day? The Zinn Education Project has a toolkit on their website.
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