November is Native American Heritage Month, dedicated to exploring and paying tribute to the rich history and traditions of Native Americans. For a collection of posts exploring the Library’s resources related to Native American experiences and contributions, see this post.
Native American cultures are alive and well today, thriving and evolving within cities, rural communities, tribes, and nations across the United States.
The online collections of the Library of Congress contain a variety of primary sources that document daily life and creative works in diverse Native American communities from the late twentieth century to the present day.
Primary sources can play a powerful role in supporting students as they explore contemporary Native American communities and cultures as they grow and change. Primary sources can also help counter or complicate portrayals of Native American culture as a vanished relic of the distant past, or attempts to define Native American communities solely in terms of historic struggles with U.S. government or other authorities.
- The Library’s collection Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982 captures details of everyday life and ranching culture on the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation on the Nevada-Oregon border, with photos of rodeo competitions and handicrafts, as well audio interviews about farm work.Hundreds of audio recordings of songs, interviews, and speeches from the 1980s, 1990s, and beyond bring the traditions of Omaha Indian Music to listeners, along with photos, fieldnotes, and posters that capture the experience of an Omaha pow-wow.
- Legendary photographer Carol Highsmith documented many Native American marchers who gathered in Washington, D.C. in 2003.
- In addition, students can visit the National Book Festival authors list to find webcasts from writers who draw upon their Native American heritage, such as Joy Harjo, Joseph Bruchac, and Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.
- The governing documents of hundreds of American Indian tribes and nations can be browsed in the Indigenous
Law Portal of the Law Library of Congress.
Students can analyze these items using the Library’s primary source analysis tool, paying particular attention to reflections about the objects’ intended audience and the point of view of the objects’ creators. (Printable versions of the primary source analysis tool and teacher’s guides are available here.)
Students might search the Library’s online collections to find earlier artifacts to compare with present-day primary sources and explore the points of similarity and difference. You might also ask students to search for present-day depictions of Native American individuals and cultural artifacts in popular culture and note their reflections about these objects’ intended audience and creators. If needed, they may use the prompts on the analysis tool to deepen and focus their reflections.