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Native American Heritage

Dear Dr. Debbie,
Our family has been embracing cultural diversity while spending time at home during the pandemic.

Our children are 4, 8 and 11. Do you have some recommendations to honor Native American Heritage Month? 
Race: Human

Dear R.H.,
There are many ways to engage in family learning for Native American Heritage Month. 


Food is a wonderful route to cultural exploration. Indigenous foods have been sustaining humans across this continent for thousands of years. You can easily find blueberries, pecans, squash, and wild rice at the grocery store. Or be more adventurous to find a source of deer meat, chokecherries, buckthorn berries, or acorns. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay provides a list of edible plants you might come across in local parks or even in your own yard. Look for tempting recipes online  before making out your gathering list!

The National Museum of the American Indian  is hosting a free online webinar about traditional foods, with a goal of getting young people involved in returning to these more healthful choices, this Thursday at 4 pm.


Basketry is a timeless craft that can be accomplished with grasses, bark strips, or paper. Find directions for making a basket with a brown paper bag on the Facebook page of Chesapeake Children’s Museum


When you are stuck at home, reading is an excellent window into other ways of living. Children of all ages can peer into the cultures of indigenous peoples to see how much we are all alike and how unique each culture is. The following titles are available at Anne Arundel County Public Library: 

For Preschool Children

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
First Laugh: Welcome, Baby! By Rose Ann Tahe
Nimoshom and His Bus by Penny Thomas
Racoon’s Last Race by Joseph Bruchac & James Bruchac
Dreamcatcher by Audrey Osofsky
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard
Thunder Boy by Sherman Alexie

For Elementary Students

Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places by Joseph Bruchac
We Are Grateful by Traci Sorell
Kamik: an Inuit Puppy Story by Donald Uluadluak
Mission to Space by John Herrington
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis
Not My Girl by Christy Jjordan-Fenton
Her Seven Brothers by Paul Goble

For Middle School Students

Red Bird Sings, The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist, adapted by Gina Capaldi & Q.L. Pearce
A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carolos Montezuma, Native American Hero by Gina Capaldi
Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Basket by Joseph A. Dandurand
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
Chickadee by Louise Erdrich
Makoons by Louise Erdrich 


Native American culture is intertwined with nature. Take a field guide (available from the public library) to help you identify plants that have been used for food, medicine, homes, and tools. Native Tech  provides an online reference of Native American Technology and Art including a lengthy list of plants and their ancient uses. The website has many other helpful resources including directions for stitching birchbark to make a container.

Weather watching is a tradition once essential for survival. Make your predictions of a hard or easy winter by looking at the size of bird and squirrel nests and the thickness of the fur on squirrels, rabbits, and foxes. Watch squirrels for acorn burying activity – more storage for winter means they’re expecting a longer time until springtime foods emerge.

Predictions can be made from leaves – if they stay long on the trees there will be a long time of severely cold weather. It is also said that if the geese – that return here for the winter from the north – are flying high, the winter will be harder and if they are flying low, the winter will be milder. Although another source says the opposite! Another predictor of winter is if there is a lot of long thunder in the fall, the winter will be mild. 


In your exploration of Native American culture your family is sure to absorb valuable philosophical teachings. Chew on this message from Lakota Instructions for Living:
“Whatever you do in life, do the very best you can with both your heart and mind.”

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist  and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum.

Read more of her Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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