Best Ways To Celebrate Native American History And Culture In DC

November 5, 2012 6:00 AM

(credit: Thinkstock)

nativeamericanpottery Best Ways To Celebrate Native American History And Culture In DC

(credit: Thinkstock)

President George H.W. Bush approved the creation of National American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. Twenty-two years later, Native Americans are still fighting to protect, maintain and spread awareness of their culture. This month, take some time to experience and learn more about American Indians than what you learned in elementary school.

National Museum of the American Indian
Independence Avenue Southwest
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 633-1000

Price: free

National Native American History Month is a great opportunity to check out the National Museum of the American Indian if you haven’t already. If you have, take the opportunity to see even more exhibits and rediscover old ones. See the sky as the Navajos did, watch Native American-themed short films and learn about tribal music. Don’t miss the Native Festival: Mvskoke Etvlwv (Muscogee People) Nov. 16 and 17, which offers food, dancing, music, and general merriment as part of its American Indian Heritage Month celebration. The museum offers something for all ages and all knowledge levels.

“American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War”
Thomas Vennum Jr.

Price: roughly $27

The average person probably doesn’t know anything about how a particular sport was invented, especially lacrosse. Thomas Vennum Jr. isn’t the average person. His book “American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War” details the origins of the lacrosse that is played today. However, Vennum explains the exact origins and history of the sport can not be determined. Lacrosse has connections to several tribes in various regions, with differences in the equipment and style of the game. The closest modern day version to the original Native American game would be the version played by females; in contrast to the better-known male-dominated version. Spend a day reading about the history of a Native American sport, and then got outside and play it.

DC Native Community Round Dance
225 7th St. SE
Washington, DC 20003

(202) 544-0344

Price: free
Hours: Nov. 10 – 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Many DC citizens do not know or realize that there are Native Americans in the area. Use National Native American History Month as a segue into learning about the native community in D.C. Attending a round dance is one of the most fun ways you can do that. A round dance is a traditional friendship dance typically done during powwows. It involves simple steps that anyone can follow. On top of that there will also be food and games. Eat, dance and play, all while learning about Native American culture. If you enjoy it, the DC Native Community hosts these events three times a year.

Related: Family History Day – Native American Day

Great American Exposition and Pow-Wow
The Showplace
3000 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Richmond, VA 23223
(804) 225-8877

Price: $10 for everyone Friday/$6 ages 3 to 12 Saturday and Sunday/$10 ages 13 and older
Hours: Nov. 9 to Nov. 11 Fri – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Powwows have been both revered and disrespected in films, books and on television. A real Native American powwow is a celebration but it is also an important occasion to honor ancestors and continue traditions. This simplified description does not compare to experiencing a powwow in person. Attending a powwow is an honor, and while watching, it’s important to remain respectful. At this particular powwow, there will be dance and drum contests, face painting, storytelling, a special presentation to honor veterans and, of course, food.

Baltimore American Indian Center Cultural Class
113 South Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 675-3535

Price: free
Hours: Pow Wow Native American Festival Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 – 6 p.m.

The Baltimore American Indian Center has a mission similar to other minority groups; mainly to support its community. Since 1968, it’s done just that. On Thursday nights it hosts a cultural class that seeks to preserve the culture and provide a space for non-Native Americans to learn about it. If you want to do more than just learn about the culture, you may also donate to and volunteer with the center. The center will host its 38th Annual Pow Wow Native American Festival Nov. 17 and 18.

Related: Olympic Medals from Native Americans go on Display

Folashade Oyegbola is a freelance writer covering all things D.C. Her work can be found on

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