Native American Heritage Month: Resource Guide
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. A number of programs and initiatives this month emphasize Indigenous peoples and their cultures for this reason.
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” remain widely accepted terms, it is generally preferred to use the specific tribal nation when referring to Indigenous people. “Indigenous” or “Indigenous American” can also be adopted as general terms with increasingly more currency today. To learn more, see the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian’s statement on terminology from their FAQ page.
A complete list of library programs for National Native American Heritage Month (NAHM) can be compiled by searching on the library calendar for “Native American Heritage Month” through the tag field.
NAHM 2023 kicks off on 11/2 at 6:30 pm with a special screening of the feature film “Killers of the Flower Moon” (R; 3 hours, 26 minutes) hosted by the Princeton Garden Theatre, co-sponsored by library, and presented in partnership with the Native Graduate Students of Princeton and the Princeton American Indian and Indigenous studies Working Group. Adapted from David Grann’s celebrated book on this disturbing true history of 1920s Oklahoma, Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” dramatizes the murderous campaign to dispossess oil-wealthy members of the Osage Nation through a cycle of crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror. Princeton University students from the Native Graduate Students of Princeton and the Princeton American Indian and Indigenous Studies Working Group will offer brief introduction to preface the screening and a panel discussion offering a post-viewing Q&A session.
On Nov. 14 at 7:30 pm Camilla Townsend and Nicky Kay Michael will join the library for a virtual discussion of their new book, “On the Turtle’s Back: Stories the Lenape Told their Grandchildren,” the first collection of Lenape folklore. Stories originally told by two Lenape couples, Julius and Minnie Fouts and Charles and Susan Elkhair, and compiled by anthropologist M. R. Harrington over a century ago, are published here together with interviews and reflections on these stories among present-day members of the tribe. The authors provide context and well researched historical background for these stories in their introduction and commentary. Registration for this Zoom event can be secured here.
In the Newsroom on Nov. 16 at 6 pm the library will also screen the celebrated 2022 documentary “Lakota Nation vs. United States” (PG-13; 2 hours), which explores how indigenous citizens of the Lakota nation have struggled to reclaim rights of stewardship for the sacred Black Hills. Directed by Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli and produced by Mark Ruffalo, this film reviews how violated treaty agreements deprived the Lakota of their lands and documents the Lakota’s Land Back movement to reclaim them through archival footage and original interviews with Indigenous citizens.
A Bard at the Gate watch party, hosted in partnership with McCarter Theater Center, will feature a screening of former Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s “Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light” in the Community Room on Nov. 20 at 7 pm. Blending storytelling, music, movement and poetic language to chronicle the challenges of young protagonist Redbird on his path to healing and self-determination, the production directed by Madeline Sayet stars Joy Harjo and features music performed by Larry Mitchell.
Finally, kids and teens can stop by the Teen Center to participate in a take-home maker activity, as long as supplies last. Pick up a strawberry take-and-make kit to create a strawberry box at home and read about the significance of strawberries for Indigenous cultures here. For video instructions visit @ppl.teens on TikTok and Instagram.
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 and kids, you’ll find lists of books that highlight Native American history, culture and experiences.
You can view more than two dozens films that highlight Indigenous perspectives, voices, and themes via the library’s subscription to Kanopy (available to library cardholders for free), which provides access to a video streaming service that offers a broad selection of quality documentaries, feature films and training videos.
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 Tattoos; Southwest 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.
There are also a number of online sources related to Native American heritage. These include:
- Recommended books from the First Nations Development Institute
- “All My Relations,” a podcast that explores varied issues “facing Native peoples today, bringing in guests from all over Indian Country to offer perspectives and stories”
- Online exhibitions from the National Museum of the American Indian
- The special exhibitions of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, NY
- Recorded sessions from the National Council on Public History (descriptions here)
- Primary sources, online exhibitions, articles and more from the National Archives and Records Administration
- Background on the history of National Native American Heritage Month from federal cultural agencies
- A blog entry from Princeton University’s Public Policy Papers related to the Indigenous Child Welfare Act (1978)
- The Lenape Talking Dictionary: language resources from the Delaware Tribe of Indians
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.
- Culturally Relevant Resources for Classroom Teachers from the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians
- Teaching and learning FAQs from the National Museum of the American Indian
- Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative, a project of the National Museum of the American Indian
- Lesson plans and other resources from the National Museum of the American Indian
- Lessons, books and films from the Zinn Education Project
- “10 Tips to Decolonize Your Classroom” from Teaching Native Histories, a project of the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Teacher’s guide from the National Endowment for the Humanities
- Educator resources from federal cultural agencies
- “Lessons Learned in Teaching Native American History” from Edutopia
- “Invasion of America” map showing the seizure of Indigenous land created by eHistory.org, a project of the University of Georgia
- “Native Land Digital,” an Indigenous-led nonprofit organization hosting an interactive map showing past and present Indigenous territories and other resources
- “Best Practice When Teaching about Native People” from the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library
- “Tips for Teaching about Native Peoples” by the Burke Museum
Content made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.