Inclusive Native American Heritage Month Activities for Elementary Students [Do’s and Don’ts]

How to celebrate Native American Heritage Month

If you’re looking for Native American Heritage Month Activities for elementary students, you’re in the right place! November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. Unfortunately, it gets less buzz than other heritage months but is by no means less important to celebrate in our classrooms. So how can you honor Native American Heritage Month with activities for elementary students?

The text reads, "Native American Heritage Month Activities for Elementary Students Do's and Dont's". The background is a fall-themed student desk.

Do bring Native Americans to the present with Native American Heritage Month activities for elementary students

Charlene Teters, a Native American who works to remove Native American stereotypes from sports mascots, once said, “Often, people think about Native Americans as we were envisioned at the turn of the century. If we’re not walking around in buckskin and fringe, mimicking the stereotype in dress and art form, we’re not seen as real. Native Americans are here, and we are contemporary people, yet we are very much informed and connected to our history.”

What does this mean for our elementary classrooms? Show your students that Native Americans are still very much around and thriving today. Sometimes students have the misconception that Native Americans have all died since they don’t see them nowadays the way they see them in their Social Studies book. 

One way that you can bring modernity to your study of Native American Heritage Month is with my reading passages. They focus on 6 different modern Native Americans and the contributions that they have made to science, technology, sports, and social justice. The Famous Native Americans reading comprehension passages are available in English, Spanish, or in a bilingual bundle with both.

These Native American Heritage month activities for elementary students can be used as either a traditional printed worksheet or assigned in Google slides. Each passage features 5 questions and answer keys are included. Click the picture below or on the links to read more details and see a preview.

Native American Heritage Month Activities for Elementary Students: Famous Native Americans Reading Passages print and digital

Don’t take on Native American names

Many Native American tribes have prestigious ceremonies surrounding the giving of a name. Letting students choose their own Native American names undermines the sanctity of these naming practices and may perpetuate negative stereotypes. 

Do speak to the diversity of Native American nations and tribes

The United States is a huge country, and categorizing all Native Americans as a homogenous culture is like expecting Germans and Italians to be the same. Students need exposure to grasp the diversity of different Native American nations and tribes. 

Don’t play dress up

Like naming conventions, Native American regalia (NOT costumes) are nuanced. Playing dress up undermines the significance of the regalia and perpetuates stereotypes of how Native Americans were in the past instead of seeing them as modern individuals. 

Do bring in guest speakers

There’s a good chance that you live near a local tribe. Contact them or a local museum and see if you can arrange a guest speaker to come visit your class to talk about their culture and traditions. You may also be able to get someone to speak virtually via Zoom. 

In one of my previous school districts, the city library held a powwow in November. I was able to bring my class on a field trip and the indigenous dancers were able to speak about their regalia and the dances.

Don’t use media that perpetuates stereotypes

If you’re not sure, a quick Google search will tell you if a certain film or book perpetuates negative stereotypes. Using an indigenous speaker (like the examples above) is preferable to media produced by a non-Native. 

Putting it all together: Native American Heritage Month activities for elementary students

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with elementary students is an opportunity to promote understanding, respect, and appreciation for the rich and diverse cultures of Native American nations and tribes. It’s a time to break free from outdated stereotypes and misconceptions while fostering a sense of inclusivity and appreciation for Native Americans’ contributions to modern society.

So, as you plan your Native American Heritage Month activities for elementary students, make sure to do it with the utmost respect and consideration, ensuring that you contribute positively to the understanding of Native American cultures and their significance in our modern world. Your efforts in creating an inclusive and meaningful learning experience will go a long way in fostering a more inclusive and educated generation.

More Native American Heritage Month activities for elementary Students

For even more information about Native American Heritage Month activities for elementary students, be sure to read 6 Inspiring Native Americans for Kids.

Famous Native Americans for Kids in English & Spanish
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