American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Just as there are many viewpoints on how to best honor Native American history, there is also a wide-ranging spectrum of Native American experiences and identities. Despite these differences, Native Americans have had to work together to defy the countervailing force of stereotyped representations often promulgated in popular culture.

The following three activities provide teachers the opportunity to explore the question of how to recognize Native American experiences, while also grappling with stereotypes and urban experiences. Each activity incorporates the use of primary sources that will challenge students to think critically and draw their own conclusions. The first activity relies on the use of several oral history interview transcripts in an investigation of urban Native American experiences. Students will be challenged to think about Native Americans as unique contemporary city dwellers while at the same time, to recognize continuity across cultural experiences. The second activity requires students to grapple with stereotypes and the ways in which popular culture influences perceptions. In this activity, students will analyze a set of primary source images, ranging from 19th-century paintings and advertisements to contemporary sports mascotry. The third activity examines the legislative process as students will be required to research commemorative holidays.


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