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How to Honor Native American Heritage Month in Colorado

Engage your family with Native peoples’ history, culture, and resilience.

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Poets and singers raise their voices, community caretakers distribute resources, and young people alongside elders are sharing new, old ways of understanding this land’s past, present, and future. 

These are among the many works of American Indian folks residing in Colorado, some linked to first nations of this area: the Arapaho, Apache, Cheyenne, Ute, Pueblo, Sioux, Shoshone. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike can engage in telling of this land’s history and where it’s going.

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“Indigeneity isn’t something we’re going to be taught in school, but it’s something that we’re going to write with our own hands, today,” says Mason Estes (La Jolla, Luiseño), creator and host of Spirit of the Sun’s “Of the Soil, of the Sun, of the People: Transformative Youth Webinar Series.”

“Indigenous,” “Indian,” and “Native American” peoples are not a monolithic group — no group is. When learning through the activities below, pay attention to folks’ specific ancestral heritage and nuanced experiences.


Social studies, past and present

Watch K-12 educational videos from the Tesoro Cultural Center, provided as free resources for understanding the movements and power dynamics of people in Colorado land history. They also present rich traditions and oral histories that inform people here, today. Order a free Kiowa-specific curriculum with activity packets.

Practice Land Acknowledgements at the family breakfast or dinner table, before sports practices, or in the introductions of school projects. Create a paper map as a family to solidify your understanding. Native Land has an interactive map showing pre-colonizer nations across North America. Take time to pay respects to original keepers of the land, talk about how they might have been forcibly removed, and recognize colonialism’s presence today. Native Land also suggests contacting nations in your area directly to learn more about how they would like to be acknowledged. Find more tips here.

Artwork by Gregg Deal. Image: History Colorado

Visit Denver’s History Colorado Center where Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute) has arranged an examination of what American democracy means to Indigenous peoples who’ve been systematically marginalized for centuries. The artwork confronts a painful past/present, and imagines a more inclusive future. Open now through July 31, 2021. Or, travel to Montrose’s Ute Indian Museum to explore Ute cultural survival and self-determination. 

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Re-think Thanksgiving. It’s a time to get together with family and friends and be grateful. But the origin story broadly taught as a pleasant encounter between Native people and pilgrims absolves violent settlers and erases the Wampanoag People’s experience, according to Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American Student Services. Try their young learner-friendly lesson plan from an Indigenous perspective: okcps.org. You can also take a look at what the National Museum of the American Indian has to offer on the subject.

Tune in to the Indian Voices program on KGNU radio 88.5FM, hosted live on Sundays at 3 p.m. by Theresa Halsey (Hunkpapa Lakota). Find recordings of the weekly news show featuring American Indian news, interviews, and music in an online archive. Find more on the KSUT 91.3 FM Tribal Radio airwaves hosted by Southern Ute members weekday mornings at 8 a.m. or at ksut.org/term/tribal.


Arts and activities

Watch hoop dancer Notorious Cree, a men’s Powwow dancer and one of the top three hoop dancers in the world, perform a blend of traditional, modern and contemporary arts mixed with comedy. For teens and adults. November 13, 4-4:45 p.m. Register with Arapahoe Libraries.

Read “Late Birth,” a short tale about comfort and care, and enjoy a corresponding coloring page created by Armond Antonio, self-taught Diné artist.

Learn to draw a bird, listen to the telling of a Choctaw folktale, or follow along with a number of story books featured in the Kid Zone of this year’s virtual Denver American Indian Festival.

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Hear from youth poets during Sacred Voice’s open mic night, held virtually on Facebook every fourth Friday evening at 6:30pm. The organization, originally known as Cafe Cultura and founded in 2004, is Denver-based, indigenous, and youth-focused. Its mission is to pass on to the next generation oral and written traditions. Poetry workshops for schools are also available; those interested can contact info@sacred-voices.org.

Follow rapper Supaman (AKA Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, Apsáalooke), who combines traditional song and dance with hip hop. His videos “Prayer Loop Song” and “Why” have both gone viral. Watch here.

Listen to Red Feather Woman (AKA Rose Red Elk, Assiniboine/Lakota), an award-winning folk music artist, traditional dream catcher and jewelry artisan, and public speaker. 

Check out some of the books recommended by First Nations Development Institute. Find a list of age-appropriate books, along with ten ways to make a difference with your new knowledge, at firstnations.org. Parents, find readings in various subjects online and in this roundup article by Buzzfeed News.


Restaurants and recipes

Order a delicious fry bread Indian taco or bowl of wild rice with all the fixings — vegan beans, lettuce, Osage hominy — built with food from local Native and Indigenous producers, brought to you by Tocabe. Find locations in north Denver and Greenwood Village. Co-owner Ben Jacobs (Osage) also shared a recipe for Three Sisters Salad with Colorado Parent.

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Find more culinary adventures through the Longmont-based First Nations Development Institute recipe page, featuring traditional foods cookbooks and delicious ideas like wild rice hamburgers and double cornbread muffins.

Try a cornmeal-based recipe from Bow & Arrow Brand, a Ute Mountain Ute Farm & Ranch Enterprise from the base of the legendary Sleeping Ute Mountain near Four Corners and Mesa Verde.


Community advancement

See what Spirit of the Sun, a collaborative organization with youth development programs and family/community services, is up to. Their efforts are founded on belief in communal cultural resilience, economy, and health. Like them on Facebook or join their newsletter for frequent updates and invitations.

Join Denver Indian Center, an urban cultural gathering place for the American Indian/Alaska Native community, as they guide folks into economic empowerment, and provide programs to empower families and honor elders. Find information about food banks/drives, their upcoming Honoring Fatherhood Program sessions, and more here.

Follow Four Winds, a hub for Native peoples’ liberation, healing, learning, and growth. They operate a community garden, share traditional food/ecological knowledge, host educational and activism events, and engage in partnerships with other groups. Like on Facebook for updates.

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Connect with First Nations Development Institute as they work on food security, community asset building, language-immersion and/or culture-retention program grants, ecological stewardship, and more.

Join Denver Indian Family Resource Center in its mission to strengthen children and families through collaborative and culturally-responsive services. Find resources, parenting programs, and more online.

Support college students through the American Indian College Fund, collegefund.org, or giving directly to various Native programs at Fort Lewis College in Durango, a school that provides tuition waivers for Indigenous students.

Get involved with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women and/or the Seeding Sovereignty environmental group.

Things To Do

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