Native American Heritage Month 2021

November 1, 2021

Celebrate the heritage, history, art, languages, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives during Native American Heritage Month this November.

We use Native American and American Indian here; learn more about the various terms used by Indigenous people in the Americas. The best term is always what an individual person or tribal community uses to describe themselves.

100 million people lived in the Americas before the sickness, violence, and genocide of European settler colonialism, and the descendants of those who survived (including some of you) are still here. 

Across Michigan, there are 12 federally recognized Tribal governments. The three main Anishinaabe nations in Michigan, Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewadomi (Potawatomi), collectively form The Council of The Three Fires. 

Attend heritage month events

Go to Native American Heritage Month events (in person and virtual) offered by Multi-ethnic Student Affairs (MESA).

Watch shows with Native American leads

Some great shows with Native American casts and writers include Reservation Dogs (Hulu) and Rutherford Falls (Peacock).

Check out these movie recommendations (this is a tiny smidge of what’s available). You’ll need your U-M credentials to stream video or check out a DVD:

Gather. A documentary that illustrates the growing Indigenous American movement to reclaim their spiritual and cultural identities through obtaining sovereignty over their ancestral food systems. 2020, streaming video.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Showing the harsh realities Native families face, the movie follows the lives and relationship of two siblings living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. 2015, streaming video.

The Cherokee Word for Water. Based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project, the movie recounts the struggle for, opposition to, and ultimate success of a rural Cherokee community's fight to bring running water to their families. 2013, streaming video.

Trudell. This documentary follows the life work of Native American poet, musician, and activist John Trudell (1946-2015), who became a national spokesman for the American Indian Movement. 2005, DVD.

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Based on an ancient myth, this drama tells a story of love, crime, murder, and ultimately family and justice. It features an almost entirely Inuit cast, and was the first feature film ever written and acted in the Inuktitut language. 2001, DVD.

Smoke Signals. This award-winning comedy may help you understand some Native American jokes. It was the first film written, directed, and performed entirely by Native Americans. 1998, DVD.

Consult our Indigenous Resources guide

Browse the Indigenous Resources research guide as a jumping-off point for research into Indigenous language revitalization, sovereignty and governments, databases and journals, and other topics and references. It covers resources on communities indigenous to Turtle Island (North America).  

Explore Indigenous Peoples of Michigan, a new section of the guide, for information about Native communities in Michigan — libraries and language centers, colleges, heritage curriculums, student groups, and more.

Expand your horizons and refer to Michigan State University’s Native American Studies Research Guide, which incorporates lists of books, films, notable Michigan Indians, and much more.

Access library collections

Search our multicultural and American culture studies collection, which includes Native American Studies.

Delve into the Joseph A. Labadie Collection, which encompasses civil liberties and social protest movements.

View the online exhibit American Encounters: Native American History, which features books, maps, manuscripts, and photographs of early encounters between Indigenous peoples and European explorers, warfare, native leaders, and Indian boarding schools.

Examine the Warren Petoskey Papers, a digital collection of Odawa and Lakota elder Warren Petoskey’s personal and professional documents, photographs, and audio recordings.

Refer to the bibliography Native Americans Manuscript Collections for guidance to manuscript collections in the Bentley Historical Library that reflect the history and culture of Native Americans in Michigan.

Pin-back buttons from the Joseph A. Labadie Collection, U-M Library.

Learn more about U-M programs and language instruction 

Explore the Native American experience and the importance of Indians to American history, literature, religion, social sciences, politics, and law by pursuing a minor in Native American Studies, offered through the U-M Department of American Culture. 

Keep Native American languages alive by taking intensive language instruction through the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies to learn Quechua or Nahuatl. Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire in South America, is currently the most widely spoken of all American Indian languages, and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec Empire, is still spoken throughout Central Mexico.

Join a Native American student organization

Unite with like-minded peers:

Watch for the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow

Each April the Native American Student Association (NASA) joins with the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI) to host a Dance for Mother Earth Pow Wow. It’s a great way to experience and honor Native American heritage and history through song and dance.

Get help with U-M Library resources

Ask a librarian

We can point you in the right direction. Contact Ask a Librarian for help locating library resources, connecting with the right specialist, or finding support at any stage of your project.

Peer guidance

Connect with our culturally diverse peer information consultants, students who are trained to guide you through things like picking a Native American research topic, locating a great source, using library databases, and much more!

Connect with a specialist

Are you looking for something in particular? Do you need more direction? Contact Charles Ransom, multicultural studies librarian, at ransomcg@umich.edu.

Still image from the documentary Gather.

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