November’s annual Native American Heritage Month and the national holiday of Thanksgiving are times when many educators across the country turn their focus to lessons about Native peoples. At the National Museum of the American Indian, we receive many requests during November from teachers and parents looking for advice and resources to help them teach appropriately about Native Americans.
This year, we are excited to unveil our new organizational hub on C3Teachers.org, featuring a variety of Native American-focused inquiries that can be used year-round to build students’ critical thinking skills and address curricular needs.
Think back to what you learned about Native Americans as a student. Iconic but incomplete stories, including Pocahontas, Sacajawea, Thanksgiving, and the Cherokee Trail of Tears might come to mind. These ubiquitous stories are not wholly inaccurate, nor on their own offensive. However, they reveal that Americans remain largely uninformed and misinformed regarding crucial historical and contemporary events that include Native American knowledge, experiences, and perspectives.
…Americans remain largely uninformed and misinformed regarding crucial historical and contemporary events that include Native American knowledge, experiences, and perspectives.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is joining with Native communities and educators nationally to help change how and what students learn about Native Americans in K-12 classrooms. This long-term initiative, Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°), provides educators and students with deeper and more comprehensive knowledge and perspectives about Native Peoples, bringing the richness of the museum’s collections, scholarship, and the diverse voices of Native experts and young people, directly into classrooms nationwide. Please visit our NK360° website for more information and resources.
Inquiry is a perfect pedagogical approach for helping students explore complex and nuanced stories of Native American histories, cultures, and contemporary lives. We’ve built an online format where IDM inquiries unfold onscreen. As they navigate the digital pages, students engage with compelling and supporting questions using a variety of purposeful tools, including videos, interactives, objects, images, and primary-source documents to gain a deeper appreciation of the diversity and experiences of Native Americans. We invite you to use the inquiries on our hub. Make them your own–do a deep dive with the full inquiries or select components to support your own classroom needs. Be sure to check out the teacher materials included for each inquiry to see an IDM blueprint and other important information.
This November, and beyond, we are grateful for the opportunity to share our educational resources with you. We hope that our digital inquiries and other NK360° resources help you bring more rich, nuanced, and informed perspectives about Native Peoples into your classroom.