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HomeEducationNecessary Indigenous Figures to Educate About in Faculty

Necessary Indigenous Figures to Educate About in Faculty

All through historical past and at present, Indigenous peoples have left and proceed to depart their mark throughout each facet of society, from local weather justice to the humanities. Whereas you will need to talk about Indigenous historical past and identification all through the college yr, there’s a well timed alternative to acknowledge Indigenous peoples and their contributions throughout Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October and Indigenous Peoples’ Month in November. Whereas this checklist is just not complete, listed here are 15 necessary Indigenous figures from previous and current who you’ll be able to educate about in your lessons.

7 Historic Indigenous Figures and Their Influence

Loopy Horse (c. 1840-1877)

Oglala band of the Lakota division of the Sioux

Born within the Black Hills of South Dakota, Tasunke Witco — or Loopy Horse — was an Oglala Lakota warrior. He fought towards encroachment by White American settlers on Indigenous territory and performed a pivotal function within the Black Hills Battle, notably within the Fetterman Battle and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. At this time, this well-known struggle chief is honored on the Loopy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.

Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907)


The primary African American and Indigenous sculptor to achieve nationwide and worldwide recognition, Edmonia Lewis, additionally known as Wildfire, was born to a Black father and a Chippewa (Ojibwa) mom. Lewis was orphaned at a younger age and grew up amongst her mom’s tribe earlier than attending faculty in Ohio and later establishing herself as an artist in Boston. In 1865, she moved to Rome, Italy, the place she created works depicting the struggles and traditions of each Black and Indigenous peoples. 

We’wha (1849-1896)


We’wha was a Lhamana (Zuni Two Spirit) particular person who grew to become a Zuni cultural ambassador, a pottery and textile artist, and a religious chief. A talented crafter, We’wha grew to become one of many first Zunis to promote their ceramics and woven blankets, belts, and sashes, serving to to advertise Indigenous arts extra extensively. They participated of their group’s drugs society and the boys’s kachina society, the place they carried out ritual masked dances. We’wha’s affect was acknowledged past their group, and in 1885, We’wha visited Washington D.C. for six months, even calling on President Grover Cleveland.

Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915)


The primary Indigenous lady to obtain a medical diploma in the USA, Susan La Flesche Picotte needed to make sure that the Indigenous peoples on the Omaha Reservation had entry to medical care. This grew to become her life’s objective and work after watching an Indigenous lady die when a White physician refused to take care of her. Picotte not solely achieved her objective, however she additionally went on to open a full hospital within the reservation city of Walthill, Nebraska. At this time, the unique hospital hosts a museum devoted to her legacy.

Jim Thorpe (1887-1953)

Sac and Fox Nation

Jim Thorpe was the primary Native American to win a gold medal within the Olympics for the USA. He’s typically thought to be some of the versatile athletes in fashionable sports activities historical past. In 1912, Thorpe gained two Olympic gold medals: one in traditional pentathlon and the opposite in decathlon. On prime of that, Thorpe additionally performed American soccer, skilled baseball, and basketball, and was even inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1963.

Katie John (1915-2013)

Ahtna Athabascan

A revered Elder and champion of Alaskan Native rights, Katie John labored by means of proposals and courtroom circumstances to revive her group’s fishing rights on their ancestral land alongside the Copper River, an space referred to as the Batzulnetas. The case grew to become recognized all through Alaska because the “Katie John case.” Katie additionally helped maintain the Ahtna Athabascan language alive by creating its first written alphabet and making recordings to show its pronunciation. In 2019, Alaska declared Might 31, the day of Katie John’s demise, as Katie John Day to have fun her life’s work.

Chester Nez (1921-2014)

Navajo Dibéłizhiní (Black Sheep Clan) of the Tsénahabiłnii (Sleeping Rock Individuals)

Chester Nez was the final surviving unique Navajo code talker who served within the U.S. Marines throughout World Battle II. On the time, radios weren’t geared up with encryption expertise, which means enemy forces may overhear delicate info. Nez and different Navajos helped forestall this from taking place by speaking throughout radios within the Navajo language, which was troublesome for others to study and had no written type. Nez went on to write down in regards to the expertise in his memoir and was one among 5 dwelling code talkers to obtain the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush in 2001.

8 Residing Indigenous Individuals and Leaders to Educate About

Oren Lyons (b. 1930)

Onondaga and Seneca nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (the Haudenosaunee)

Oren Lyons is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, a member of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the co-founder of the Haudenosaunee Nationals lacrosse staff, and a member of the Indigenous Peoples of the Human Rights Fee of the United Nations. In his work, Lyons advocates for environmental justice and treaty recognitions uncared for by the U.S. authorities. 

Pleasure Harjo (b. 1951)

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

A poet, musician, playwright, and creator, Pleasure Harjo is the twenty third U.S. Poet Laureate and the primary Indigenous individual to obtain this honor. She has written 9 books of poetry, two kids’s books, two memoirs, and three performs, amongst different works. She has additionally launched seven award-winning music albums and has taught at numerous universities. 

John Herrington (b. 1958)

Chickasaw Nation

In 2002, former U.S. Naval aviator John Herrington grew to become the primary enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in house. The NASA astronaut carried the Chickasaw Nation flag on his 13-day journey in house after the flag was given to him by Chickasaw Nation Governor Invoice Anoatubby. Harrington was awarded many medals and honors all through his profession, was inducted into the Chickasaw Corridor of Fame, and ultimately retired in 2005. He now serves as a motivational speaker to younger individuals.

Sterlin Harjo (b. 1979)

Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Muscogee heritage

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Sterlin Harjo is an Indigenous filmmaker, director, and producer who has directed three function movies, a function documentary, and the FX comedy sequence Reservation Canine, which he co-wrote with the Māori filmmaker, actor, and comic Taika Waititi. Harjo’s work is centered across the Indigenous expertise and attracts upon Indigenous traditions and practices of storytelling. Reservation Canine is the primary and solely TV sequence the place each author, director, and sequence common is Indigenous, and it most not too long ago gained a Peabody award.

Sharice Davids (b. 1980)

Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin

Sharice Davids is the primary brazenly LGBTQ+ Indigenous individual elected to the U.S. Congress and one of many first two Native American ladies elected to Congress, together with Deb Haaland of New Mexico. First elected in 2018, she is presently serving Kansas’ Third Congressional District in Congress after working in financial and group improvement on reservations and within the Division of Transportation beneath President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

Tommy Orange (b. 1982)

Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma

A graduate of the MFA program on the Institute of American Indian Arts, Tommy Orange is the creator of the novel There There. Revealed in 2018, the guide follows a bunch of Indigenous individuals dwelling in Oakland, California, and addresses Indigenous historical past and identification in addition to the expertise of Indigenous peoples dwelling in city locations. Orange gained the John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and American Ebook Award for his work.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (b. 2000)

Mashika Individuals

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an environmental activist and hip-hop artist who served because the Youth Director of Earth Guardians. He was named one among DoSomething’s 2019 Youth Empower Gamers and has been talking out for the local weather justice motion since he was six years outdated. He has spoken in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl on the UN and has additionally advocated for local weather change reform by means of lawsuits. 

Quannah Chasinghorse (b. 2002)

Han Gwich’in and Sicangu/Oglala Lakota Tribes

An Indigenous land protector and local weather justice activist, Quannah Chasinghorse was a part of Teen Vogue’s 2020 checklist of “21 beneath 21.” She is keen about Indigenous sovereignty and the motion MMIWG2S, which stands for Lacking and Murdered Indigenous Ladies, Ladies and Two-Spirit Individuals. She works as an expert trend mannequin and unapologetically reveals her facial tattoos, a standard hand-poke tattoo known as Yidįįłtoo. Chasinghorse bridged conventional Indigenous adornments and modern parts in her viral 2022 Met Gala look and, shortly after, walked in New York Vogue Week for the primary time.

For classroom assets for educating about Indigenous peoples and their contributions, head over to TPT to search out what you want. And for tips about how you can educate about Indigenous peoples and cultures, learn what these Indigenous Trainer-Authors need to say:

This weblog put up, initially printed in 2022, has been up to date for 2023.




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