National Museum of the American Indian: Native American Heritage Month events

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and New York City is slated to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month / Native American Heritage Month this coming November. Photo: Vincent Schilling

Vincent Schilling

National Museum of the American Indian celebrates American Indian Heritage Month with numerous events in DC and New York

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and New York City is slated to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month / Native American Heritage Month this coming November with numerous events to honor Native veterans, celebrate Native artists, musicians and dancers and acknowledge the richness of Native culture and traditions.

According to a statement released by the NMAI, “November is Native American Heritage Month. There are 6.6 million Native American and Alaska Native people living in the United States, as well as millions of other indigenous people living throughout the Western Hemisphere. These communities each have their own unique traditions, languages, values and histories. Visitors can celebrate the diversity and contributions of these Native cultures at the National Museum of the American Indian.”

“Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces,” — a 16-panel exhibition revealing a remarkable record of service through photography and essays, documenting 250 years of Native peoples’ contributions in U.S. military history — we be viewable in both cities to honor Native veterans and servicemembers. Native Americans have served in the nation’s military since colonial times and today serve at a higher rate per capita than any other ethnic group.

Horace Poolaw kneels in front of a P-40 Warhawk. MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida, ca. 1944Poolaw (Kiowa, 1906–1984) was an aerial photographer for the Army Air Forces during World War II.Photo by Horace Poolaw. Courtesy estate of Horace Poolaw / screen capture of exhibit webpage.

Recently, the National Museum of the American Indian announced the Veterans Memorial and Warriors’ Circle of Honor” by Harvey Pratt, Cheyenne/Arapaho. Pratt, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, is a multimedia artist and recently retired forensic artist. Groundbreaking for the memorial is scheduled for September 2019; the museum is planning the memorial’s dedication in late 2020.

Here are the list of events in Washington D.C. and New York City:


Symposium: Transforming Teaching and Learning about American Indians

Thursday, Nov. 1; 2–5:30 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Rasmuson Theater, Washington, D.C.

Experts discuss the need to transform education about Native Americans. The goal is to inspire a more comprehensive vision of American history and a greater understanding of Native and non-Native Americans’ shared experiences. Panelists will present the museum’s national education initiative, Native Knowledge 360 Degrees.

Live webcast:

Director’s Conversation with Steve Inskeep

Thursday, Nov. 15; 6 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Rasmuson Theater, Washington, D.C.

Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, is also the author of “Jacksonland,” a history of President Andrew Jackson’s long-running conflict with John Ross, a Cherokee chief who resisted the removal of Indians from the eastern United States in the 1830s. Inskeep will join Kevin Gover, Pawnee, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, for a conversation about the museum’s newest exhibition, “Americans,” and the history of Indian Removal.


Honor Song for Returning Native American Women Warriors

Thursday, Nov. 8; 1:30 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Potomac Atrium, Washington, D.C.

In advance of Veterans Day, composer, singer and drummer Ralph Zotigh, Kiowa, will sing an honor song he composed for Native American women veterans. He will be joined by his son, Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian. This song was sung publicly for the first time in Tuba City, Arizona, at the second anniversary memorial for Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, Hopi, the first American servicewoman killed in the Iraq War, who is believed to be the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military.

Hoop Dancing Demonstrations

Thursday, Nov. 15; 6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 17, and Sunday, Nov. 18, noon–4pm (each hour on the hour)

National Museum of the American Indian, New York City

Award-winning hoop dancing duo Joseph Secody, Navajo, and Tomas Hunt, Navajo, will demonstrate their skills and tell the history of hoop dancing.


Hopi Tribal Festival

Saturday, Nov. 17, and Sunday, Nov. 18; 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Potomac Atrium, Washington, D.C.

The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation located in northeastern Arizona. Their nation encompasses more than 1.5-million acres, and is made up of 12 villages on three mesas. Over the centuries, Hopi has endured as a nation, retaining its culture, language and religion despite influences from the outside world.

During this all-day, two-day festival, the Hopi people share artist demonstrations, performances of music and dance, and a presentation of the history of the Hopi Code Talkers. The Hopi Youth Color Guard will present and retire the colors at the beginning and end of each day.

Native American Heritage Day:Family Fun Friday

Friday, Nov. 23; 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

This celebration of Native American Heritage Day features hands-on activities, “make-and-takes,” and music and interactive dance presentations.


“Promised Land”

Friday, Nov. 2; 6 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Rasmuson Theater, Washington, D.C.

The documentary Promised Land tells the story of the Duwamish and Chinook tribes and their fight for indigenous sovereignty and restoration of their homeland. (2016, 98 min.)

“Tribal Justice”

Wednesday, Nov. 14; 6 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Rasmuson Theater, Washington, D.C.

In this documentary by Anne Makepeace, two Native American judges look to traditional concepts of justice to reduce incarceration rates, foster greater safety within their communities and create a more positive future for youth. A discussion with the museum’s director, Kevin Gover and featured judges follows the screening. (2017, 90 min.)

Teacher Workshops

Giving Thanks: Including More Complete Narratives About Thanksgiving and Native People

Saturday, Nov. 3; 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

Recommended for teachers grades K–8

Educators discuss how to teach the history of Thanksgiving, explore the “Americans” exhibition and engage in take-away art activities in this hands-on workshop. Participants will learn about some of the important food traditions of select Native communities and why giving thanks is important throughout the year with artist, author and educator Elizabeth Woody (enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, of Yakama and Navajo descent), the 2016 Oregon poet laureate. A lunch catered by the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, teaching poster and additional classroom resources are included in the workshop fee: $20. Advance registration is required; email:

Children’s Programs

TheimagiNATIONS Activity Center. Courtesy NMAI.

Allchildren’s programslisted below take place in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center on level 3 at the Washington D.C. location. Note: Groups (e.g., school or homeschool classes, daycare, camp or scout groups, etc.) are required to schedule entry time to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.


Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m.–noon

This 5-to-10-minute program repeats on demand. Recommended age: 0+

Families are invited to celebrate Native culture by learning hands-on about Native foods. Visitors can explore the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash), wild rice harvesting, berry gathering and more in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.

imagiNATIONS Creations

Saturdays; 1:30–3:30 p.m.

Free tickets may be required; see Activity Center staff. Recommended age: 5+

Games are an important tradition shared by all ages in many Native communities. Several games are designed to build strength in both body and spirit through exercise, group cooperation and practicing important skills such as hand-eye coordination. Visitors are invited to learn about the many games that are regularly played throughout the Americas, then create a ball and triangle game to take home.

imagiNATIONS Story & Discovery

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; 11:15 a.m.–11:45 a.m.

Recommended age: 3+

The museum is observing Native American Heritage Month with a reading of the November Storybook “Hungry Johnny” authored by Cheryl Minnema, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and illustrated by Wesley Ballinger. Families are invited to participate and learn, along with Hungry Johnny, about honoring Elders, having patience and, of course, FOOD.

About the Museum

The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others.

NMAI Washington D.C.

National Mall at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W.

Washington, DC 20560

10 AM—5:30 PM (Closed Dec. 25)

NMAI New York City

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

One Bowling Green

New York, NY 10004

10 AM–5 PM daily, Thursdays to 8 PM

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