Native American Heritage Month November 2023

The WCPS Office of Equity & Excellence is excited to continue supporting WCPS' efforts to foster a positive culture and climate with the recognition and celebration of Native American Heritage month. Let's use Native American Heritage Month as an opportunity to learn, celebrate, and show support for the rich tapestry of Native American cultures. By sharing stories, history, and traditions, we can help raise awareness and foster understanding.

We are excited to provide resources to explore some of the more recently available resources to support building your personal awareness and that of your students. We want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territories of the Massowomek and Shawandasse Tula tribes. Take some time to explore the ink to the map below and discover more about the history behind the spaces you have inhabited.

As we continue to build "awareness" this year, we will deepen our understanding of various cultures and how they impact our nation, our community and our students. As educators, we are charged with developing students' ability to view the world from multiple perspectives. In order to support our students, we must simultaneously develop our own understanding of perspectives that differ from our own.


It’s important to use language correctly. Throughout history, Native nations were separated from their home lands due to battles, genocide, and western expansion. There are distinctions among various tribes resulting from geographic location, language, and cultural practices. For example, within the Lakota Nation (aka Sioux), there are seven bands and within one band there are three: Hidasta, Arikara, and Mandan. Within the Cheyenne, there are two: Northern and Southern. It’s similar for the Arapaho, River Crow, Mountain Crow, and others. In addition, there are various regional identities, such as the Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Wetlands, etc.

Here are some specific items that might be helpful:

Alaska Native: This term refers to the indigenous people of the area. Native Alaskan is anyone from Alaska (including non-indigenous).

American Indian: Some tribes (and their associated parks) prefer Native American. Use specific tribal name(s) whenever possible, accurate, and appropriate.

First Nation, First Nations: Refers to aboriginal people in Canada who are neither Inuit (people of the Canadian Arctic) nor Métis (descendants of First Nation people who married Europeans). Often used in the plural in the collective sense, as in a program for First Nations youth. The term is widely used in Canada but is not used in the US, except in connection with Métis whose homelands include northwest Minnesota, North Dakota, or other northern states.

Native American: Use if requested by specific tribes or parks.

Tribal name: Use specific tribal name(s) whenever possible, accurate, and appropriate. Also the preference is to use the singular noun: Navajo, Lakota, Tlingit. Examples: The Navajo entered Canyon de Chelly about 300 years ago. The Anishinaabek fished in Lake Superior.

  1. Above information obtained from National Park Service- "November 2022 Native American Heritage Month".

Native American Heritage Month, established in 1990 by presidential proclamation, recognizes and honors the people who are indigenous to this land. In 2008 the commemorative language was amended to also include the contributions of Alaskan Natives.

The month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.

In this newsletter you can expect to see:

  • A brief explanation of Native American Heritage month and its importance
  • A section on the history of Native American and Indigenous people in the United States
  • A section on Native American and Indigenous people contributions to American culture
  • A section on challenges faced by the Native American community
  • A section on cultural norms within the Native American community
  • A section with suggestions for books, movies, TV programs and music that highlight the diverse cultural experiences of Native American and Indigenous individuals and build your awareness.
  • A section on current events
  • A section with resources for teachers

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

This year the U.S. Department of the Interior: Indian Affairs is acknowledging Native American Heritage Month with the theme "Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity". According to the U.S. Department of the Interior: Indian Affairs, "Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity" celebrates "Indian Country with its remarkable diversity of American Indian and Alaska Native cultures and peoples while remembering and honoring our veterans who have sacrificed so much to defend our Nation". (National Native American Heritage Month, n.d.) Explore the link below for more information.


Native American history in the United States began tens of thousands of years ago with the settlement of the Americas by the Paleo-Indians. Anthropologists and archeologists have identified and studied a wide variety of cultures that existed during this era. The European impact on the history of Native American and Indigenous people has been felt and experienced in many ways ever since. Click the link below to read more information on the history of Native American and Indigenous people.

WCPS Celebrates Native American Heritage Month 2023

Share photos of how you are celebrating Native American Heritage month and expanding awareness so they can be shared here!

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." - Native American Proverb

Native American Inventions and Contributions

It should come as no surprise that Native Americans and Indigenous people have made substantial contributions in the areas of health, art, food, communication, farming, among many other things, and recently, in changing the perception of Native American and Indigenous people.

Challenges faced by the Native American community

From the 2010 to 2020 Census, the number of people identified as Native American and Alaska Native, alone or in combination with another race, grew 160% or 9.7 million.

Despite individual and group achievements and contributions, there are also challenges. Native American Life Today, states that "for the more than 500 years, Native Americans have faced genocide, dislocation, and various forms of physical, mental, and social abuse. These factors have led to high rates of violence, assault, suicide, poverty, and abuse among the Native American people today." You should be aware of some challenges that top the list. They are:

  • Poverty and Unemployment
  • Violence against Women and Children
  • Land occupation
  • Portrayal of Native American culture
  • Inadequate Health and Mental Health Care
  • Continued Issues with Voting Rights
  • Native Languages are Being Threatened

Knowing the challenges faced by the community is important, however, as educators, we must consider how these barriers impact our students. In addition as we begin to focus on individual students, we must consider the educational challenges that may also be at play. As able, take some extra time to get to know your students and the challenges they and their families are facing.

Resources to build awareness

In the last 2 years, there have been a series of "firsts" related to the representation of Indigenous people in film and television. Consumers can now enjoy television series and movies where there are writers, leading actors, and entire casts of Indigenous people telling their stories. Some notable titles include: Reservation Dogs, Prey, Rutherford Falls and Dark Winds.

Deepen your cultural awareness by watching movies and television programs that are written by Native American writers, include performances by Native American actors or are focused on Native American stories. Listen to Native American influenced music.

No resource is complete without music!

In an effort to find relevant, meaningful resources that can support our students and connect to the curriculum, we will continue to update this resource. As always, your photos of how your school is recognizing various cultures are welcome! Please share so that we might share with others. We hope that you find something of interest. Look for additional resources this year that celebrate cultures across our school system and the nation.

All the best,

Allison Smith, Supervisor of Equity & Excellence