With over 500 federally recognized First Nations in the United States alone, I can honestly say that trying to create a respectful Native American holiday storytime was intimidating. By far, this post required the most research of all the holidays – and even now, I feel incredible pressure to get this “right.” And as I researched, I was keenly aware of my European American ignorance on so many Indigenous Peoples’ traditions, beliefs, and feelings.
I finally hit a point where I realized that my fear of “getting it wrong” was keeping me from moving forward on a post. So I reached out to the wonderful Debbie Reese for help. She pointed me towards several resources, and the one that helped me the greatest was this book:I bought the ebook and read it in a few hours. I’ve had no formal diversity training whether it involves programming or collection development, and I consider this book to be my first class on the topic. One of the biggest lessons that I took away from it is that we must show our children that the First Nation people are incredibly diverse and a part of our current society.
Therefore, what I believe is the best way to include Native Americans in your holiday programming is to reach out to a nearby tribe to request help. Having a tribally enrolled representative come dressed as they normally would (i.e. no regalia) and share their stories? That would have a powerfully positive impact on the kids (and parents) in attendance. After all, they may have only seen stereotypes of Native Americans in books, tv, and movies. Let’s give them a real experience.
Also, be sure to add as many accurate First Nations picture books as possible to both your holiday and regular book displays. You can find great ideas for storytimes and books at both Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature site and books, lesson plans, and other resources on Strong Nations.
Many Native Americans celebrate Winter Solstice and/or Christmas, so be sure to include them in those displays and/or programs. That is why I created the Merry Christmas sign at the top of this post (feel free to download and use it). That’s just a tiny selection of Merry Christmas in Native Languages. I very deliberately chose one of my favorite fonts (and not one that looks “ethnic”). This also reinforces the important fact that the First Nations’ people are diverse and shouldn’t be lumped together in a vague, inaccurate manner.
If you do music in your storytime, then look for traditional carols sung in First Nation languages such as Jana Mashonee’s Winter Wonderland sung in Ojibwe. Again, this reinforces to your attendees that Native Americans exist in today’s society.
I truly hope that I have given you some ideas for incorporating the First Nations into your holiday programming. If you have any further resources, ideas that you’d like to share, or if you want to point out something(s) that I got wrong, then please feel free to comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’re a storytime blogger, then please consider creating and sharing some ideas for representing individual First Nations into your storytimes throughout the year – there definitely is a void on the internet when it comes to this. Let’s fix that.