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cool things to do in dc for native American heritage month

It’s November! This of course means pumpkin spice lattes, cozy fall weather and Thanksgiving break, but it also means Native American Heritage Month! Officially signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, the celebration, which lasts the entire month of November, seeks to honor the legacies, contributions, traditions, history, and culture of the first people to inhabit the United States. Considering that DC and the greater DMV area, in general, were once inhabited by numerous Native American tribes including the Piscataway, Pamunkey, Nentego, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, and the Powhatan, there is so much history and culture within the area to learn and partake in. In the midst of all of your holiday festivities, check out some of these cool and fun activities in and around DC that honor the legacies and contributions of the First Peoples. 

Guide to Indigenous DC

Did you know that the land DC now stands on was once home to the Piscataway people? With the app “PocketSights”, you can enjoy a scenic self-guided walking tour through DC that highlights and features important sites to their heritage. The guided tour, which features commentary about historic moments in tribal politics and legislation, will take you on a journey exploring the monuments, museums, and even a mural that commemorates the Native people who once lived here. Taking the tour is super easy and free! Simply download the app on a mobile device with GPS capabilities, search within the app for “Guide to Indigenous DC”, and enjoy!

The National Museum of the American Indians’ Annual Native Cinema Showcase 

Lasting from November 18-25, the National Museum of the American Indians’ Annual Native Cinema Showcase is a yearly celebration of the best of the best in Native film. The films honor the history, culture, and contributions of Native peoples from the Americas all the way to the Arctic. The feature films and short programs include coming-of-age stories, political documentaries, family-friendly animations, and much more. The best part? The festival is completely free and online, which means anyone can join from anywhere! Some showings do have specified times, limited availability, and require advanced registration so head to the museum’s website for more information. 

Ancestors Know Who We Are Exhibition

Explore the intersection of Black/Indigenous culture and gender with this completely free and online exhibit through the National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit, which contains 

art completely made by Black/Indigenous women, finds its roots in a decade-old conversation prompted by the pioneering book and traveling exhibition “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas”. Through paintings, photographs, digital artwork, spoken word, prints, and basketry, the artists seek to inspire conversations about the experiences of Black-Indigenous women and confront complex topics such as stereotypical portrayals of Black boys and men, the complex and often tumultuous relationship between hair and cultural identity, the trials and tribulations of multiracial upbringings, and much more. This online exhibit is an absolute must-see! 

Patuxent River Park

Explore nature and Native American history and culture at the Patuxent River Park. Spawning over 7,000 acres which include tidal marshes, swamps, forests, and the river itself, the park and its surrounding area was once home to the Patuxent or Pawtuxent people. The park features a fully reconstructed replica of a Patuxent village that educates visitors about the “architectural, technological, and agricultural traditions of Maryland’s indigenous peoples”. Visitors can also enjoy the Patuxent Rural Life Museums, which feature replicas of colonial life including a blacksmith shop, tobacco farming museum, and catalog house. Additionally, the park also offers amazing opportunities to explore nature and wildlife in the area with hiking trails, along with an observation tower, and canoe and kayak rentals. 

Sophomore political science and international affairs major at Howard University from PG County, Maryland writing on all things political, cultural, and black!