First recognized as “Native American Indian Heritage Month” in 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, the month of November has been celebrated annually as “Native American Heritage Month” (or a variant thereof) since 1994. The observance is a prime opportunity to recognize the unique contributions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians to both the U.S. regions in which they reside and to American society-at-large.
Since 2001, the federally funded initiative Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO), which provides annual grants to six educational and cultural institutions (see below), provides support for site-specific programming (e.g., standards-based curriculum creation, school programs, teacher institutes, special exhibits, youth symposia, and art and culture workshops) for thousands of children and adult learners in various areas of Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Mississippi, as well as for a collaborative website – www.echospace.org – where an impressive array of instructional resources about select native peoples can be accessed. The site features 69 learning centers, organized around nine themes, ranging from indigenous Americans to cross-cultural communication to food and foodways to leaders and leadership. Users of the site can quickly identify relevant learning centers and their contents by selecting a given theme.
While each learning center is formatted slightly differently, most have a common set of six characteristics:
- target age range;
- overview of the chosen topic;
- outline of learning objectives;
- proposed content-related activities;
- activities linked to specific state academic standards; and
- connection to related learning centers’ content and additional third-party resources that enrich the proposed lesson and provide outside avenues for additional investigation.
Several of the learning centers also provide rubrics, worksheets, recipes, brochures, trading cards, suggested questions, and interactive resources that can be incorporated into classroom lessons, including videos, photographs, and drawings. These resources can be used either in conjunction with an established learning center or independently, based on the needs of the user.
Additionally, echospace.org users can build personalized learning centers related to the lifeways of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. The site’s interactive platform permits individual users to establish a profile, hone in on a central idea, identify an audience, select age-appropriate support materials, and link to other established learning centers and/or resources.
Additional resources developed in recognition of Native American Heritage Month 2011 can be found at http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/index.html. These resources have been developed through a government partnership that includes the Library of Congress; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Gallery of Art; the National Park Service; the Smithsonian Institution; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska
Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii
Inupiat Heritage Center, Barrow, Alaska
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Mass.
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.
Editor’s Note: While the U.S. Department of Education does not endorse or guarantee the educational validity of the materials developed by the ECHO Program partners and/or various echospace.org website contributors, it does encourage educators to regularly promote understanding of and respect for the values, perspectives, traditions, and expressions of all the peoples of the United States, including Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.