Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month

Paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans

 Adult Learning Department

Origins of Native American Heritage Month | History of Native Peoples in Washington, D.C. | Events | Good Reads | Good Films | Good Music | Did You Know? - Tools for Research

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Native American Heritage Month this November by sharing events and resources to read, watch, listen to and learn from that honor and pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.

Origins of Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month has been declared each year since 1994 but the origins of the month date back to 1915 when Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans.” This movement grew as the Congress of the American Indian Association declared an “American Indian Day” and several states joined in, declaring their own day. In 1990 the first Native American Heritage Month was declared and it became an annual celebration in 1994. Learn more about Native American Heritage Month. 

History of Native Peoples in Washington, D.C.

The DMV region was home to several Native Tribes, including the Nacotchtank, also known as the Anacostians who lived right in Washington, D.C. The Anacostans is a Latin version of their original name. It is derived from the native word “anaquashatanik” which is translated as “a town of traders.” With the convergence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, the area served as a trading hub with other tribes in the Chesapeake area and up and down the Eastern seaboard. 

The D.C. area had a wealth of natural resources. The river provided food, water and irrigation for farming crops like corn, beans and squash. The land also provided rich hunting ground populated with turkey, deer, bison and more. We know from early maps and archaeological digs that members of the Nacotchtank tribe lived and worked in villages along the river, on Capitol Hill, by the site of the White House, near Georgetown and in the Piney Branch area. Like many other tribes on the East Coast, they lived in wigwams or longhouses. The DC Native History Project created an interactive map where you can see where artifacts have been found throughout the city. 

As European explorers and settlers came into the area, disease, violence and the seizing of land led to the death and displacement of many native people in the area. After just 40 years of contact with Europeans, only one-quarter of the tribe remained. Those members largely joined and assimilated into other tribes in the region and today there are no living members of the Nacotchtank tribe. 

There are more than a dozen tribes in the D.C. and Chesapeake region. To learn more about local tribes near D.C. you can visit these resources:

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, DC Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan hosted members of the local Piscataway Conoy Tribe and the Piscataway Indian Nation and Tayac Territory with a special tour of the modernized Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library.



The Library is hosting virtual events for children, teens and adults throughout Native American Heritage Month. Visit the Library’s event calendar to see what is coming up!

DC Family Reads
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the November DC Family Reads selection is 
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. DC Family Reads features a book that families can enjoy reading, discussing and doing related activities together. Learn more here.

Good Reads






eBooks and Audiobooks for All Ages

Visit our OverDrive collection celebrating Native American Heritage Month and download your next read.

Want to try delicious recipes? Check out this list of great cookbooks

Good Films

Good Music

  • This playlist from Freegal is called Spirit Song. Listen here.  

  • American Indian Music in Music Online: Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries. Listen here.

Did You Know? - Tools for Research

Your library has a wealth of online resources that can help enrich your understanding of Native American Heritage Month. It all can be found in our databases.

  • NoveList - list of authors & their books where the author’s cultural identity is Native American