November is Native American Heritage Month and there are lots of ways you and your little ones can respectfully honor the culture and history of the Indigenous people who inhabited this land long before we did. From the Algonquin-named Potomac River to Anacostia’s nod to the Anacostans tribe, you don’t have to look far to be reminded that the Capital area was home about a dozen Native tribes. Scroll down for 10 simple ways to honor the Indigenous tribes of DC (and beyond) during the month of November.
Visit the National Museum of the American Indian
The museum has reopened – with required free timed-entry passes reserved in advance– and has a couple of new exhibits. Check out the “Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field,” exhibit featuring photo essays by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels and Tailyr Irvine. Why We Serve is another new exhibit featuring personal stories of Native veterans and the 250 years of service they’ve provided to the military from colonial times to the present day.
COVID-19 Update: All visitors 6 & up are required to wear masks.
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Learn About Decolonizing Diets
When the Europeans arrived and then began displacing Native American people, their food sources were disrupted and mixed with the diets of the Europeans. Register for this webinar where Native foodies will talk about decolonizing their diets, restoring balance to their bodies and communities, and the impact these different (and often unhealthy) food sources have had on Native people. The webinar takes place on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 at 4 p.m. You do need to register in advance.
Make an Authentic Native American Recipe
Did you know that New England Clam Chowder and Boston Baked Beans both originated as Native American recipes? While we all patiently wait for Mitsitam Native Food Cafe to reopen in the National Museum for the American Indian, you can enjoy some of the cafe's recipes at home with a new-found respect for their origins. Looking for more quick and easy meals? Check out these four simple recipes for a quick addition to any meal.
This Thanksgiving, consider including cultural sensitive activities in to your day. You can start with this Thanksgiving Address, courtesy of the Six Nations Indian Museum. Want to explore more Native perspective? Check out the National Museum of the American Indian’s website, Native Knowledge 360.
Take an App-Guided Historical Tour
The Guide to Indigenous DC app takes you on a nine-mile guided tour of some of the Indigenous history of the city. You’ll visit sites where local tribes once had settlements as well as more modern historical sites, such as where key protests against the Dakota Pipeline took place. You’ll also visit the Iwo Jima Memorial in which one of the soldiers is Ira Hayes, member of the Pima tribe – a reference that many tourists (and some locals) overlook.
Insider tip: The app is available only for iOS.
Visit the Statue of Chief Standing Bear
Chief Standing Bear’s statue is a recent addition to the National Statuary Hall by the state of Nebraska. In 1878, Chief Standing Bear unintentionally became the first – and possibly least-known – civil rights leader in America when he fought to leave the Reservation he had been forced on to and bury his 16-year-old son on tribal land. His arrest and trial led to a court ruling that Native Americans were people with the same rights as other citizens under the Constitution.
COVID-19 Update: At this time, The Capitol Visitors Center has cancelled all tours. We will update this story when the U.S. Capitol is open to the public again. In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the statue here.
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Make Movie Night Educational
Run out of family-friendly movies on Netflix? Tune in to The Native Cinema Showcase on Wed., Nov. 18- 22 for this annual celebration of the best Native flicks. Sponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian, this year's films include Racoon and Crawfish and other family-friendly shorts on Sat., Nov. 21.
Insider tip: If your family enjoys Racoon and Crawfish, you can pick up an illustrated version of the Oneida Legend here.
Learn About Local Tribes
If you want to learn more about the original inhabitants of the DC area, you can start here. Twelve tribes originally occupied the Capital area; today just 5,000 decedents remain. Many of the tribes that still call this area home maintain websites where you can learn about upcoming events and verify operating hours and fees for ancestral museums and cultural centers. Due to COVID, many annual traditions, like the Howard County Pow-Wow have been cancelled, but you can still catch these performances online.
Plant Native Flowers
Whether you plant them in your own yard or a community garden, planting plants that are native to the area is a great way to honor Native American Heritage Month and support Mother Nature at the same time. A little research will turn up lots of flowers, trees, and shrubs perfect for this. Let the kids get their hands filthy and absorb some Vitamin D while doing some good for the planet even as you honor those who were here before you.
Read a Native American Author
Whether you typically read a bedtime story every night or want to choose a family read-aloud to pass the time, a great way to honor this month is to choose some Native American authors. From the littlest munchkins through high school, including comics and graphic novels, here’s a good list to start looking for the perfect books for your personal library. To purchase Wild Berries by Julie Flett (pictured above), go here.