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Native Knowledge 360: Culturally appropriate & historically accurate materials about American Indians

The Smithsonian is not the only collection of museums in the country. There are others. But I am gonna argue that the collection of 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries is the largest and most awesome and coolest and most educational and easiest to use of them all. I mean, between the 19, they’ve got over 155 million artifacts, documents, resources, and specimens. If you can find what you need in all of that, you’re just not trying.

One of the newest and awesomest Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of the American Indian. And they just updated their education section to make your trying just a little easier.

Why is that a big deal?

As educators, we have a responsibility to highlight and honor the diverse histories and cultures that make up the complex fabric of the United States. American Indians have been a part of what America is since before European arrival and the creation of American democracy. NMAI director Kevin Gover:

The images, names, and stories reveal the deep connection between Americans and American Indians, as well as how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States.

To help us tell those stories, the NMAI redesigned and retitled their education section. Rebranded as Native Knowledge 360°, this resource is one of those non-negotiables that needs to be part of your everyday toolkit.

NK360° has created new online materials that embrace a richer and more inclusive conversation around the American Indian experience. It incorporates a variety of technology and media to help you engage students and enhance their learning. Lessons and resources are aligned to Common Core and social studies standards. They highlight the latest NMAI exhibitions and collections while featuring relevant stories from the histories and contemporary lives of Native peoples. Created in collaboration with Native communities themselves, NMAI resources bring the Native voice directly into the classroom.

You’re going to get Native narratives, comprehensive histories, and accurate information to support your teaching and student learning about Native America. It challenges the common assumptions many of us have about Native peoples – their cultures, their roles in United States and world history, and their contributions to the arts, sciences, and literature.

Get the basics out of the way by starting with the Essential Understandings page. Structured around the National Council for the Social Studies 10 Themes of Social Studies, this page focuses specifically on how the Themes and Native peoples content can be aligned. You can browse the different Themes or get the full document via PDF.

But you’ll spend much of your time on the Resources page. This is where you’ll find lessons, tools, primary sources, and structured activities. The page leads off with a searchable database of the stuff you need:

But be sure to explore the larger NMAI site including the Exhibitions and Collections pages. Both provide more artifacts and primary sources. Most of the exhibitions have their own websites and useful activities. The latest exhibition titled Americans is especially powerful telling the story of how American Indian images, names, and stories have been infused in American history and contemporary life. The many artifacts that you and kids can explore in Collections are perfect for having students think deeply about past and present.

(And don’t forget the easy to use Smithsonian Learning Lab for locating, collecting, and sharing resources from the different Smithsonian museums – including many from the NMAI.)








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