Celebrating Native American Indian Heritage Month

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According to the US Census Bureau's 2010 Census Briefs, there are 5.1 million Native Americans in the US. At just 1.5 percent of the US population, Native American Indians are rarely part of the national public conversation and are frequently not depicted in mainstream outlets in ways that embrace their humanity, past and present.

Native American Indian Heritage Month in the United States has been celebrated in November since 1990 as a way of honoring the history, achievements and legacies of America's indigenous people. But how can families, communities and schools come together to acknowledge and honor America's first people throughout this month?

1. Visit your local Native American Indian history museum.

If you can't make it to the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, look into attending one of the many Native American museums listed in 45 states. A trip to your nearest Native American museum can offer you the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of how Native American culture influences daily life in your community or state. Many museums have a calendar of events, and some may even offer the opportunity to attend a language or cultural lesson given the current movement to resuscitate lost or dead native languages.

2. Visit your local art museum and take in some Native American Indian art.

Many art museums across America have Native American Indian art collections. Often including pottery, jewellery, weaving, bead work, paintings, clothing or engraved tools, your local art museum provides the opportunity to appreciate Native art from various regions of the Americas.

3. Visit a powwow or Native American Indian festival.

Powwows.com posts the Pow Wow Calendar, which "lists thousands of Native American events across the United States and Canada." You'll likely be able to find a powwow held in your area. Powwows provide visitors with the opportunity to observe live dancers and musicians representing hundreds of tribal cultures and traditions. Visitors are also likely to find food vendors and arts-and-crafts sellers.

4. Watch a Native-made documentary or film.

Native voices and stories matter. The current "golden age of Native film" provides a great opportunity to enjoy and learn from the history and experiences of Native American Indians in their own voices.

Indian Country Today's "10 Fascinating Documentaries About Native Americans You Can Watch Right Now" provides a balanced offering of short films made by and about the past and present more than five hundred tribes in the United States. Tribal College's Journal of American Indian Higher Education offers "Five Native Films You Should Be Streaming in 2017" suggests a range of films that are a sampling of the Native film boon.

A final thought

In order to make the future a better world for all Americans, National American Indian History Month provides an opportunity for all Americans to get to know Native American Indian communities near and far, along with the present struggles they face. Their past stories and history – in conjunction with the version of U.S. history taught in most schools – can better inform our understanding of ourselves as a varied people under one nation.

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