Native American Heritage Month
By Sarah Hurd
I have been a part of Jeffco Schools since my family moved here in the mid 1980s from eastern Kansas. Third grade brought local history to me, which was so new to me as I had only been living in Colorado for a couple of years. We had Day in Denver and I remember taking photos and using the prints to make a scrapbook for my project of architecture in Denver. And we also had Day on the Prairie. We were divided into Native American tribes and spent the day at a nearby park. At the time it seemed fun. We got to make necklaces made out of wood rings, built teepees, and tried bison burgers. I remember learning the different names of tribes. All in all, it was a fun field trip. We were outside, I was with friends, and my mom got to come along. Fast forward 20 plus years and in my current role I found a meeting placed on my calendar with Jeffco’s Indian Education Liaison. A whole new world was waiting for me. In the last seven years I have learned so much about not only Colorado’s First Peoples, but where our Native Nations are positioned in our past, present and future. It has become a highlight to share about native peoples and to thread their stories throughout the K-12 curriculum. I am now able to reflect upon my experience from Day on the Prairie and realize that while no harm was intended, approaching learning about a culture, its peoples, and traditions in that way is disrespectful and is harmful. As we approach November, I wanted to take a few minutes and elevate my personal growth and understanding to include native perspectives and heritage. I hope this coming month provides a space for you to reflect and learn as well.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Today, it is often referred to as Native American Heritage Month. Throughout the Jeffco curriculum, the Social Studies Team, in partnership with our Jeffco Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, has worked to incorporate a wide variety of resources that highlight the history and accomplishments of Native Americans within the United States, as well as internationally. We are working to include native voices and perspectives, influential Native historical figures, current prominent Native leaders, and cultural influences throughout the Jeffco social studies curriculum.
Here are some resource links that we love for this month:
Native American Heritage Month website - contains links for multiple resources including the Library of Congress materials, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian with lesson materials such as primary sources and teaching suggestions.
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360° Essential Understandings about American Indians. It is a framework that offers new possibilities for creating student learning experiences. This site also provides guidance about teaching about Thanksgiving in an inclusive and accurate way.
K-5 Sample Literacy Lessons
Curriculum & Instruction