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Embracing Heritage: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month as a Family

November is not only a time for falling leaves and crisp weather but also an opportunity to honor and celebrate the rich tapestry of Native American history. Native American History Month provides families with a unique chance to learn, appreciate, and engage with the diverse cultures that have shaped the history of this land for centuries. In this blog post, we’ll explore thoughtful and respectful ways for families to celebrate Native American History Month together.

Educational Activities:

Foster a sense of curiosity and understanding. Engage your family in educational activities that shed light on the diverse histories, traditions, and contributions of Native American communities. Visit local museums, attend cultural events, or explore online resources that offer accurate and respectful portrayals of Native American history. Remember, knowledge is the first step towards appreciation and respect.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is located in Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle. The museum hosts a permanent collection of Native art, as well as rotating exhibits by Native artists in the Sacred Circle Gallery.

Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center is located in West Seattle and features events put on by the tribe and allied groups. They have a robust calendar with event information.

The Burke Museum located on the campus of the University of Washington has an exhibit that is anchored by permanent displays including a canoe, welcome figure, totem poles and house posts. It also features newly-created and historic basketry, carvings, multimedia art, and more, created by six Pacific Northwest Native artists.

The Seattle Art Museum located in downtown Seattle has a permanent exhibit highlighting Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast. According to the museum, visitors will encounter the creative expressions of generations of artists who created forms for daily life, for potlatch ceremonies, and for spiritual balance.

Other museums in Western Washington include The Carnegie Museum in downtown Port Angeles; Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve in Tulalip; and the Makah Cultural & Research Center in Neah Bay.

If you can’t make it to a museum, you can learn about Native Americans through the National Geographic’s Education Blog, which has a 35-minute video featuring three storytellers sharing their unique insights from their Native American experiences.

The National Museum of the American Indian, which is a Smithsonian Institute project, has tons of online resources as well.

For more museums outside of the Seattle area, check this list.

Storytelling and Literature:

Discover the beauty of Native American storytelling and literature as a family. Seek out books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are written by Native American authors and share them together. Many of these stories provide insights into cultural traditions, historical events, and the contemporary experiences of Native peoples. This not only broadens your family’s understanding but also supports Native voices in literature.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is a tale depicting a modern Native American family. Best for ages 2-6.

Thunder Boy Jr. is a story about a young Native American boy who wants his own nickname, which his father eventually gives to him. Best for ages 2-6.

Still This Love Goes On is a story with a gentle message about missing our loved ones and the promise of seeing each other again. Best for ages 3-7.

Berry Song is a book about an island at the edge of a sea, a girl and her grandmother, salmon, herring eggs, and berries. This is a great example of how to connect to the earth. Best for ages 4-8.

For more suggestions, check out this list from King County Libraries.

Culinary Exploration:

Food is a universal language that brings people together. Explore the rich culinary traditions of Native American cultures by preparing dishes inspired by their diverse cuisines or visiting Native-owned restaurants. This can be an opportunity to learn about traditional ingredients, cooking methods, and the significance of certain foods in different Native communities. When exploring food traditions, you should also learn about food sovereignty – what it is and how to support food sovereignty for Native American peoples.

For more recipes, check out this list of Native American cookbooks.

Artistic Expression:

Artistic expression is a core element of cultures throughout the world. Native American art has deep roots and great cultural significance. A respectful and thoughtful exploration of Native American art begins with understanding this history and significance. You can visit one of the museums or art galleries listed above, explore resources at your local library, read books on the subject, or access online resources. Once you have a greater understanding of the traditions, cultures, and significance of the different art styles and mediums, you can practice your own artistic expression as a family.  You can start with an overview of different art forms you can try and then learn kid-friendly ways to try the art forms at home.  Practicing different forms of art not only promotes appreciation for the aesthetic beauty but can also deepen our understanding of different cultures and customs.

Community Engagement:

It’s important to acknowledge that Native Americans are not just part of our history. Washington is home to nearly 150,000 Native Americans. These marginalized communities have their own needs, aspirations, and challenges. One of the best ways to celebrate this month, is to learn about these needs, aspirations, and challenges so that you can support their efforts and uplift the voices of Native American individuals in your community and beyond.

You can start by learning more about the land you occupy. Long before you lived where you live, the land was inhabited and cultivated by Native Americans. Learning the history of your area can be an interesting and enlightening project. A Canadian nonprofit, Native Land, created an interactive map of tribal boundaries around the world, including in the Pacific Northwest. You can filter the results by exact address. Land acknowledgements have become a common way to recognize the history of local lands, but to truly make an impact, learn ways to go beyond the acknowledgement itself.

Other ways to support our Native communities include, attending events organized by Native communities in your area, participating in discussions that uplift Native voices, giving to the Native American Rights Fund, supporting Native rights organizations, and shopping at native-owned businesses.

Creating a Better Future for All

As we celebrate Native American History Month, let us approach the occasion with sensitivity, respect, and a genuine desire to learn. By incorporating these thoughtful and respectful activities into our family lives, we not only honor the rich history and traditions of Native American peoples but also contribute to fostering a more inclusive and interconnected society. We hope this month can serve as a stepping stone toward a future where every voice is heard, every story is valued, and every culture is embraced.