Here's How to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month Around DC

Here's how you can observe the month and also Native American Heritage Day, which is observed the day after Thanksgiving

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National Native American Heritage Month celebrates the culture and ancestry of Indigenous people, honoring contributions and traditions.

What began as a celebratory day in 1915 has now turned into a month of celebration and education of Native American heritage, in November.

“It’s really a day to celebrate the vibrant cultures and traditions in native heritage, while also recognizing the many contributions that Native Americans have made,” said Mandy Van Heuvelen, a cultural interpreter at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Here are some ways to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month in Washington, D.C., and online.

National Museum of the American Indian

Representing 39 tribes, 14 countries and over 20 languages, the Native Cinema Showcase at the National Museum of the American Indians seeks to let viewers encounter native cultures through film. Running through Thursday, Nov. 18, the film festival offers seven features and 40 short films through the museum’s website. Films are available on demand at scheduled dates and times. A full schedule can be found here.  

National Native American Veterans Memorial

Celebrating one year since its opening, the National Veterans Memorial at the National Museum of the American Indian opened an exhibition honoring Native American veterans. “Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces” tells personal stories of Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Native veterans. The exhibition explores why native people served in the United States Armed Forces and recognizes veterans who have served since the American Revolution. You may visit the online exhibition here.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is hosting an interactive conversation surrounding Kay WalkingStick’s "il sogno del cortile (The Courtyard Dream)." In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, on Friday, Nov. 19 National Gallery educators will facilitate a conversation where the audience will be able to evaluate, interpret and engage with the artwork. The event will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. as a free virtual program with required registration.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress will host a "Prints & Photographs Virtual Orientation." The event Wednesday, Nov. 17 from 3 to 4 p.m. will feature images that relate to the history and culture of American Indians. It will also provide the audience with resources for future visits to the Library.

National Archives

Wampanoag Nation singers and dancers will perform in celebration of Native American Heritage Month. The virtual performance, hosted by the National Archives, honors their history and modern culture. On Saturday, Nov. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the audience can connect online to participate and watch. The event is free but registration is required.

National Park Service

The National Park Service will host a virtual event focused on the importance of oral traditions and Native Americans' roles in the Underground Railroad. “An Odawa Oral Tradition about the Underground Railroad” will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 16 from 4 to 5 p.m. and will feature research from a professor from the University of Detroit Mercy, as well as Odawa and Ojibwa spokespersons. The event is free but registration is required.

Engaging with Native American heritage doesn’t have to take place just once a year, said Van Heuvelen, of the National Museum of the American Indian.  

“There’s just a lot of different ways to learn about and support indigenous communities year-round,” she said. 

She had these tips:

  • Learn more about tribal communities in your area.
  • Follow Native American news outlets on social media.
  • Read books and share stories written by American Indians.
  • Watch movies, shows and documentaries produced by or starring Native Americans.
  • Check out the Native American music scene.
  • Visit museums, heritage centers and historical sites that honor Native Americans.
  • Get involved with organizations that support and uplift Native Americans.
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