Focus on Native American Heritage - National Council of Teachers of English
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Focus on Native American Heritage

NationalAmericanIndianHeritageMonthNational American Indian Heritage Month is recognized each November as a time to learn more about the history and heritage of Native American peoples. These resources provide strategies to explore Native American literature and heritage in your own classroom.

The Language Arts article “Proceed with Caution: Using Native American Folktales in the Classroom” explains the importance of selecting texts that include realistic and accurate presentations of Native American peoples. The article includes guidelines for evaluating and selecting Native American literature.

Examine two speeches by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh with the ReadWriteThink lesson Battling for Liberty: Tecumseh’s and Patrick Henry’s Language of Resistance and ask students to consider Tecumseh’s politically effective and poetic use of language. See the ReadWriteThink calendar entry for National American Indian Heritage Month for links to additional lesson plans and resources.

Contemporary American Indian Life in The Owl’s Song and Smoke Signals” from English Journal explores how to teach the novel and film together in a unit that “paints a realistic picture of contemporary American Indian life” while inviting students to identify with protagonists who grow in both self-awareness and their appreciation of others.

The English Journal article “Hoop Dancing: Literature Circles and Native American Storytelling” explores strategies teachers can use to address the misrepresentations of Indian culture through the study of Native American oral traditions and literatures.

Reading Native American Literature: A Teacher’s Guide offers innovative and practical suggestions about how to introduce students to a range of Native American works. Grounded in the idea that studying tribal cultures will enable students to gain deeper insights into Native literatures, each chapter helps teachers recognize what students need to know and then provides them with supporting materials and activities that will lead them to more informed interpretations of the literature.

Roots and Branches: A Resource of Native American Literature offers teachers an opportunity to learn and to teach about Native American literatures in context. This valuable resource book examines the historical and literary contexts that frame the literary work of Native peoples. Lessons, units, and activities keyed to grade level offer practical support. Detailed annotated bibliographies direct the teacher to a wealth of possibilities and to other resources — historical, cultural, and educational.

Interested in learning more? The American Indian Caucus is a group of American Indian teachers and scholars who come together to support and develop papers related to composition, language, and literature and to promote positive and accurate representations of American Indian educators and students.