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10 Ways to Introduce Your Kids to American Indian Heritage

October 20, 2021

Show your children the valuable contributions of Native Americans by celebrating the rich cultures and traditions at museums, national parks, even restaurants.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Alina Reynbakh

A Celebration of Native American Culture

In November, we celebrate American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. It's a wonderful time to honor the rich cultures and traditions, the foodways and other dimensions to the indigenous peoples who helped shape the United States. We can get our kids involved, too, by helping them learn about native heritage through museum visits and exploration of historic lands. Following current events impacting tribes and learning about modern-day Native Americans — like Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as the Secretary of the Interior for the United States — can continue throughout the year.

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Photo: Alan Karchmer for National Museum of the American Indian

Go to a Museum Dedicated to American Indians

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC is dedicated to fostering an understanding of Native peoples in the United States. It's also home to more than 825,000 artifacts that span 12,000 years of history. Children can learn about treaties, traditions and distinct cultures, like the Algonquin people of the Chesapeake Bay region. The museum also hosts virtual field trips on topics that range from the art of totem poles to indigenous children's games. Other museums can be found across the United States, from the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

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Photo: Erin Gifford

Learn to Prepare Some Native American Foods

Kids can get deliciously hands-on in their approach to learning about Native Americans by cooking and sampling Native foods, like fry bread. Native to Navajo tribes, fry bread is a staple across hundreds of North American tribes, even Native Alaskans and Hawaiians. Fry bread can be eaten alone or as the base in a dish like fry bread tacos. Pair kitchen time with a children's book like Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, which educates on the role of fry bread in modern Native American family life.

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Photo: Erin Gifford

Explore a State or National Park Dedicated to Native American Heritage

More than 120 units of the National Park Service, including national parks, national monuments and national historic sites, educate visitors about local Native American tribes and traditions through artifacts, performances and exhibits. Some units, like Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico, offer Junior Ranger programs for children to learn about ancestral peoples and earn an iron-on park patch. State parks are excellent resources too, like Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in North Dakota. A re-constructed On-A-Slant Village allows visitors to learn about the Native Mandan peoples and explore unique Earthlodges that were built into hillsides.

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