Deepen your discussions around indigenous peoples of America with these resources.

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There are estimated to be over 450,000 million Indigenous people around the world. Their lands overlap with over 90 countries, and encompass thousands of languages. Some of the oldest Indigenous cultures stretch back tens of thousands of years. 

The sheer depth, breadth, and impact of Indigenous cultures is staggering. And while we may not be able to cover it all, we can offer students the vital history of the land upon which they stand, and how Native and Indigenous people and cultures continue to shape the world. 

In that spirit, and with those challenges in mind, we've gathered teaching and learning resources that primarily focus on Native Americans and First Nations people in North America. These resources were predominantly developed by or in partnership with Native people and/or tribal organizations and nations. Many are culturally responsive and meant to include ways of being and knowing rooted in Native and Indigenous traditions and histories. With these tools and resources, students can explore the rich culture and history, values and beliefs, and innovations and contributions of specific nations and tribes. 

We've organized resources by approximate grade band, though there's some overlap, so they're all worth a look. Resources touch on every school subject, and many offer novel cross-curricular approaches. There are activities that engage each of the senses and cover topics from math to poetry to gain a deeper understanding of Native people's impact on the world and our future. Weave them into your curriculum all throughout the year, as well as on Indigenous People's Day or during Native American Heritage Month/Indigenous History Month.

Editor's note for all of the YouTube videos in this article: Pressing play on the YouTube video will set third-party cookies controlled by Google if you are logged in to Chrome. See Google's cookie information for details.

Essential Sites and Curricula for All Grades

 

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Logos for the National Indian Education Association, the Young and Indigenous podcast, and Coeur D'Alene Tribe

Lesson, Resource, and Site Collections for All Grades

Focused Resources for All Grades

  • This infographic from the Native Now campaign covers some key do's and don'ts of teaching Native American history and culture as well as creating a more inclusive environment for Native students.
  • Proven Sustainable has info and interviews highlighting enduring, resilient, and sustainable Indigenous communities from around the world. The site invites students to consider how we might listen to these cultures for ways to meet global challenges like climate change. 
  • This toolkit for decolonizing Thanksgiving now has two parts and assembles resources, including books, that'll help reframe the story of Thanksgiving.
  • The National Education Association also has a collection of resources ranging from articles to lesson plans, advice, and books that can help you redesign your Thanksgiving curriculum
  • Explore and discuss the photos from Project 562, which includes striking images of contemporary Native life from over 562 federally recognized tribes.
  • The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project features a collection of primary source documents from American Indian boarding schools that will illuminate students to this tragic colonial history and the resilience of those subjected to them.
  • The Young and Indigenous Podcast was created by Lummi adolescents who want to expand the reach of Lummi perspectives and stories. Each episode features a guest who shares their experience in a particular area (business ventures, residential schools, motherhood, and more).

Activities and Resources for Preschool to Third Grade

 

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Cartoon image of Sacagawea, Molly of Denali, and Native American dolls.

Audio and Stories for Preschool to Third Grade

  • You can access this 45-minute audio version of Who Was Sacagawea? on the Libby library app to learn about this extraordinary young person.
  • Have students read this story, "The Earth on Turtle's Back," about how everything in life has a circular path that starts with and returns to us. Students can connect with each other through this music and movement lesson that brings the story to life.
  • Show students how to count in Lakota with this lesson that uses a Lakota counting song along with beads, strings, and sticks.
  • Listen to stories about animals like buffalo to better understand the seven sacred laws and how Native communities protect natural creatures and resources.

Videos for Preschool to Third Grade

  • The creators of Molly of Denali worked with Alaska Native elders to ensure its authenticity from the ground up, so watching the series is a solid source of information about Alaska Native traditions for little kids. PBS LearningMedia also has classroom resources to accompany episodes of the show like "Grandpa's Drum."
  • Check out this video and lesson about the history of the hula dance that includes its inception, its banning, and its resurgence.

Hands-On Activities for Preschool to Third Grade

  • Create a neighborhood map to mark the tribal lands on which students currently reside. By drawing pictures of where they live, students can build a greater sense of belonging and a deeper understanding of places and neighborhoods.
  • Lessons of Our Land has great ideas for how to include storytelling during circle time. Afterward, get your students up and moving with a nature walk, or have your students make a Mother Earth Creation Mural!
  • Use this activity guide from the Smithsonian to explore different Native American doll-making traditions. Students will work in teams to learn about historic dolls and discuss what materials were used to create them.

Activities and Resources for Third to Fifth Grade

 

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A hand-drawn group of people in ceremonial attire, a postcard of the Grand Canyon, and a sketch of a Native American man

Audio for Third to Fifth Grade

  • Listen to music from the Pueblo people of the Zuni in New Mexico, then use the lesson plan to discuss ceremonial rituals and get students to recognize and understand tempo and rhythm, and their purpose in music.

Videos for Third to Fifth Grade

  • This five-minute video from NBC News gives a tiny glimpse into how three Indigenous men—Samoset, Massasoit, and Squanto—handled the arrival of the Mayflower by teaching poetry, traditional dance, and song. 
  • Since ancient times, Native tribes have used astronomy to better understand the seasons and to create origin stories about the universe. This Ancient Astronomy Stories activity and lesson guide feature stories about the stars from different tribes, alongside a map to study the stars. 
  • Take a look at this four-minute video about the aurora borealis and this earth science Sky Sisters lesson to investigate the cause of the stunning phenomenon.
  • Watch this 11-minute video about how the Menominee Tribe of northern Wisconsin are leading the way toward regenerative forest management.

Hands-On Activities for Third to Fifth Grade

  • The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation inhabiting over 1.5 million acres in northeastern Arizona. Take a look at these activities from the NEH that help illustrate the Hopi's rich connection with the environment, through place names, poetry, and traditional dance and song. Before any of these activities, be sure to check out some background about the Hopi.
  • Introduce students to the animals of Alaska through storytelling. Students listen to a Yu'pik tale told by John Active, an Alaska Native. The story acts as a springboard for learning about fiction vs. nonfiction text.
  • Share this activity with students to help them practice giving thanks. Students can watch this YouTube video of Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp and/or read Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address Greetings to the Natural World. Ask students to think of what they are thankful for within their own communities and write a thanks-giving message (and even draw a picture, too!).
  • Prep for a lesson about Native Americans today by collecting photos and texts that show Native life, people, and families today. Students can first write down everything they currently know about Native people, then read about contemporary Native people, and look at and discuss photos to challenge any misconceptions and expand their worldviews. After, students can use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their ideas from before and after.
  • Have students listen to "The Story of the Giants" by Joseph Marshall III, then have a discussion about perseverance. This story would pair well with any challenging lessons or activities you're working on. For instance, pair the story with a challenging math story problem. Students can work independently and then with a partner, then discuss the ways they persevered together to solve the problem.
  • This inventive mask-making activity has students create a web of life in the classroom that interconnects various plants, animals, and environmental elements that sustain Hawaiian rainforests.

Games for Third to Fifth Grade

  • This math lesson from IllumiNative focuses on Picaria, a traditional Zuni Pueblo strategy game. Students can create their own game board and practice mathematical skills while playing. To see more logic games, you can check out Burnaby school's PDF of printable game boards.
  • Use this crafty, printable Hawaiian Watershed Adventure board game to give students a hands-on learning experience about the water cycle, Hawaiian ecology, and the environmental challenges facing the islands.

Activities and Resources for Sixth to Eighth Grade

 

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A selection of titles for stories about Native American constellations; a man stands with a woman in traditional Native American dress; and a woman is pictured while speaking.

Audio for Sixth to Eighth Grade

  • Listen to these 15–20 minute Blackfeet and Crow Star Stories that illuminate the astronomical study and tales of Native peoples who resided in present-day Montana. Discuss how these stories help to shape the beliefs and spirituality of Blackfeet and Crow citizens and how what they knew maps to modern scientific knowledge.

Videos for Sixth to Eighth Grade

  • Quese IMC, a Pawnee and Seminole Native hip-hop artist, shares music, culture, and traditions—like a sweat lodge, making a hand drum, and singing with his family—in this 30-minute video from the Lincoln Center.
  • Share this STEM-focused video from NBC News about a scientist who's also a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He's working to solve water contamination problems on Pine Ridge Reservation. 
  • This lesson about Montana tribes and their names includes a video of Native American students introducing themselves in their own languages. Students can then complete an interactive activity where they match tribal names with their English-language counterparts.
  • Watch this two-minute video interview about Native foods to ground a discussion about food groups and nutrition. Students can research their own food traditions and how they fit into the FDA's guidelines to explore cultural and socioeconomic factors in diet and nutrition.
  • Where Words Touch Earth is a PBS video collection on climate change that features interviews from tribal college students, elders, and other community members. Interviews cover topics from changes in snowfall to adopting sustainable food practices.

Hands-On Activities for Sixth to Eighth Grade

Activities and Resources for Ninth to Twelfth Grade

 

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Logos for When Rivers Were Trails; a young women in traditional Native American dress; and a logo for Living Nations, Living Words.

Audio for Ninth to Twelfth Grade

Videos for Ninth to Twelfth Grade

  • Screen Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi, a film about preserving the Lakota language that was created in association with the Language Conservancy. The project includes a study guide to investigate the importance of language and the threat of language loss. 
  • Watch this three-minute video about real-life Native American superhero Jim Thorpe. 

  • Take a look at this lesson about two-spirit people and the accompanying videos and article. These resources explain and explore how two-spirit identity is a modern term meant to reclaim pre-colonial ways of being. Students will reflect on what we all can learn from how two-spirit identity was and has been incorporated into tribal structures.
  • PBS LearningMedia has a ton of short science videos as well as lessons and interactives offering Alaska Native perspectives on the environment, climate change, and the challenges facing Indigenous communities and the world in the years ahead.

  • Watch a video about the Native tribes and nations of the Northern Plains and their relationship with their homelands and communities. Then examine the map, listen to the audio stories, and use this worksheet to analyze perspectives, actions, and barriers that relate to students' experiences.
  • The Global Oneness Project library has a categorized list of films and accompanying photo essays, audio stories, interviews, webinars, conversation cards, and more. Use these materials to gain deep insight into the values and experiences of Indigenous cultures. Invite students to find points of common ground with their own communities.
  • Witness the Apache Sunrise Ceremony, a rite of passage for girls entering womanhood. After, invite students to identify and discuss the values this tradition expresses. Follow up the discussion with an assignment that gets students to describe rites of passage in their own communities.

Hands-On Activities for Ninth to Twelfth Grade

  • Use this interactive map from Native Land as a springboard for discussion around Native territories, languages, and treaties.
  • Take a look at these sample lessons from Lessons of Our Land about the conflict of Native and non-Native worldviews around cultural property and beliefs.
  • Get started on this pottery making lesson from the National Education Association to introduce your students to ancient crafting methods.

Games for Ninth to Twelfth Grade

  • Have students play through When Rivers Were Trails. It's a choose-your-own-adventure game that tells the story of forced relocation from an Indigenous perspective. While it's an emotionally difficult experience, it offers an important anti-colonialist perspective, rich with cultural meaning and history not often encountered in textbooks.

 

Bianca DeJesus

Bianca DeJesus is Editor, Learning Content at Common sense where she assigns, edits, and publishes reviews. Prior to this role, she worked as a learning engagement manager and developed and implemented community support content and learning resources for over 50,000 global volunteers. She also worked as an adjunct professor of English and taught English as a second language. Bianca earned her bachelor’s degree in English and graduated with her master’s in Language and Literacy. She is originally from the Bronx, New York, and loves to paint and try new vegan restaurants.