Photograph by Victoria Pickering via Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Exploring Native American Heritage

November marks National Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This month offers an opportunity to explore the history and culture of Indigenous peoples with ties to the land now occupied by the United States. The Princeton Public Library aims to integrate topics related to Indigenous peoples into programming throughout the year, and this heritage month serves as a chance to focus our efforts.

Indigenous peoples—specifically, the Lenape (also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape, or Delaware)—resided on the land now known as New Jersey long before Europeans arrived. Three state-recognized tribes continue to live in New Jersey: the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, Powhatan Renape Nation, and Ramapough Lenape Nation. In addition, many people in New Jersey identify as inter-tribal or members of other Indigenous nations. As of 2020, more than 53,000 people in New Jersey identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. There are also several federally recognized tribes, displaced and now based elsewhere in North America, for whom present-day New Jersey is an ancestral homeland. These include the Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, and Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians.

A note on terminology: While both “Native American” and “American Indian” are widely accepted terms, it is generally preferred to use the specific tribal nation when referring to Indigenous people. To learn more, see the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian’s statement on terminology from their FAQ page.

Read | Watch | Learn | Educator Resources


Read about Indigenous History and Culture

See below for a list of nonfiction resources about Native American history and culture. You’ll find scholarship, memoirs, and reference books.

Below is a list of fiction geared toward adults, including novels and poetry, related to Native American history and culture.

And for teens, younger readers, and little kids, you’ll find lists of books that highlight Native American history, culture and experiences.


Watch

You can view more than two dozens films that highlight Indigenous perspectives, voices, and themes via the library’s subscription to Kanopy, which provides access to a video streaming service that offers a broad selection of quality documentaries, feature films and training videos. Library cardholders can use Kanopy for free.

Additionally, Access Video on Demand (also available to library cardholders for free) has several videos particularly of interest, including Untold Art that Changed America: Indigenous North American TattoosSouthwest American Indian Art: World Indigenous Art; Columbus in America  ; and Songcatchers: The Gathering.

Younger viewers and their caregivers should join us in the Virtual Story Room as we celebrate and share books created by Native American authors and illustrators in a series of nine Storytime Shorts that can be viewed on the library’s YouTube channel.


Learn

There are also a number of online sources related to Native American heritage. These include:


Resources for Educators

See the materials below for potential starting points for engaging learners. You’ll find lesson plans, digital tools, maps, guides on best practices and terminology and more.


Content made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities