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 2020, 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. Hear from Chief Jesse James Swann, Jr. from the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, Julie Tayac Yates, Patriarch of the Piscataway Indian Nation and others who spoke during their visit in the video below. 


Celebrate Native American Heritage Month at your neighborhood library with these fun and informative events!
Easy as Ꭶ Ꭷ Ꭸ
Easy as Ꭶ (ga), Ꭷ (ka), Ꭸ (ge)! Celebrate Native American Heritage month with a kit that introduces the Cherokee Syllabary
Tuesday, Nov. 2, All Day
Tenley-Friendship Library
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Tim Indian, A Novel by Sherman Alexie with Art by Ellen Forney Teen Book Club
Do you love to read? Teens are invited to join us for our Teen Book Club. This month's discussion will be on Sherman Alexie's book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 4 p.m.
Parklands-Turner Library
We Are Water Protectors Interactive Story Walk
Take a stroll outside the library garden and enjoy the gorgeously illustrated, award-winning picture book, We Are Water Protectors.
Friday, Nov. 12, All Day
Southeast Library 
Molly of Denali, PBS Kids Native American Heritage Month Story Time
Join us for a story time about modern Native life, an exploration of resources related to Native American Heritage, and an introduction to Molly of Denali!
Friday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m.
Capitol View Library
Native American Game Day
Come celebrate Native American Heritage month by learning some traditional children's games. Create your own pieces, learn where they came from, and play for yourself! 
Saturday, Nov. 13, 10:30 a.m.
Takoma Park Library
See more upcoming events on the Library's calendar.

Good Reads




Fiction Books for Adults

Nonfiction Books for Adults

eBooks and Audiobooks for All Ages

Good Films

Movies and Shows in Kanopy Molly of Denali: Season 1 Molly of Denali Season One
And Now We Rise 
The Ride: The Annual Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride
On a Knife Edge: A Lakota Teenager Fights for Social Justice.
We Breathe Again: The Stories of Four Alaska Native People
Urban Rez: The Repercussions of the Native American Urban Relocation Program 
Medicine Woman: The Story of America’s First Native Medical Doctor
Movies on Access Videos Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience
We Shall Remain: America Through Native Eyes 
Native America 

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

Enrich your understanding of Native American Heritage Month with the Library's digital resources.

Ethnic NewsWatch Ethnic News Watch
Access full issues of Native American publications from The Native Voice, The Circle: News from an American Indian Perspective, Navajo Times and more.
National Geographic Virtual Library National Geographic Virtual Library
Read full-text articles and books, watch videos and view images, including the title Native Universe: Voices of Indian America and others.
NoveList Plus NoveList
List of authors & their books where the author’s cultural identity is Native American
Very Short Introductions
Check out titles exploring Native American History and Literature with these intelligent and serious introductions written by authors who are experts in their field.
Find more resources in goDigital.