Smithsonian Celebrates American Indian Heritage Month

October 27, 2016
News Release

Addthis Share Tools

Git Hayetsk mask

The Smithsonian invites the public to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month throughout November with a series of performances, lectures, exhibitions, family activities and tours at various museums around the Smithsonian. All programs are free unless otherwise indicated. For a full calendar of events, visit

Featured Events

The Smithsonian will present “A Celebration of Northwest Coast Dance” Nov. 24–26 at the National Museum of the American Indian. This three-day, family-friendly event will feature the West Coast First Nations mask-dancing group Git Hayetsk (People of the Copper Shield) and Tsimshian dancers Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim (Our Own Dance in Our Hearts). The show uses humor and theatrical dance to introduce indigenous lifeways of the Northwest Coast.


The National Museum of American History will host “Waking the Ancestors: Recovering the Lost Sacred Sounds of Colonial America” Saturday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2 p.m. This documentary theater program from Plimoth Plantation, a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, explores the intersection of two musical traditions: hymns and psalms from the Church of England and Calvinist congregations and the sacred songs and dance of the Wampanoag. Free tickets are available. “The Spiritual Worlds of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag” will be held in conjunction Sunday, Nov. 6, at 11:30 a.m. Living history educators from Plimoth Plantation will also perform music related to early colonial religion and Wampanoag spirituality.

Bring the Kids

Young visitors and their families can drop into the National Portrait Gallery for the museum’s Portrait Story Day Series. Visitors can participate in an art activity after listening to a story about a famous Native. The program is held in partnership with D.C. Public Libraries.

Portrait Story Days: Pocahontas

Saturday, Nov. 5; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 6; 2–5 p.m.

Portrait Story Days: Sequoyah

Saturday, Nov. 12; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 13; 2–5 p.m.

Portrait Story Days: Sitting Bull

Saturday, Nov. 19; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 20; 2–5 p.m.

Portrait Story Days: Chief Joseph

Saturday, Nov. 26; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 27; 2–5 p.m.

The National Portrait Gallery will host “Young Portrait Explorers: Native American Heritage Month” Monday, Nov. 14, 10:30–11:30 a.m. in honor of Native American Heritage Month. The program focuses on Native Americans in the Portrait Gallery’s collection and touches on art and history through storytelling. It is intended for children ages 5 and up, and registration is required.

Visitors can celebrate the American bison at the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. They can join in hands-on activities, music, dancing and more—all featuring mighty buffalo.

The National Museum of Natural History will host “Hoop for Life with Ty Defoe” Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 10:15 a.m. and at 11:30 a.m. in Baird Auditorium. Defoe tells the story of his life through the sacred (and colorful) Hoop Dance of his Oneida and Ojibwe heritage. This program is recommended for ages 5 and up. For more information or to purchase tickets, the public can visit Hoop of Life.


The Anacostia Community Museum will host a curator talk with Penny Gamble Williams Sunday, Nov. 13, 2–4 p.m. The discussion will focus on the National Museum of the American Indian’s exhibition, “IndiVisible: African Native American Lives in the Americas.”

The National Museum of the American Indian presents “Valor in Black and White: War Stories of Horace Poolaw” Friday, Nov. 11, 2–3:30 p.m. at the National Museum of the American Indian. Decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert “Corky” Poolaw and Linda Poolaw (both Kiowa/Delaware) discuss their father’s photography, with particular attention to his pictures of American Indians in the military. They are joined by Poolaw’s grandson, multimedia artist Thomas Poolaw, for a discussion of the photographer’s cultural legacy.


The National Museum of the American Indian will screen Mekko, Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. at their New York City location and Saturday, Nov 5, at 7 p.m. in Washington. The film follows an aging Creek man (Rod Rondeaux) who finds himself on the streets of Tulsa, Okla., among a community of impoverished Natives after being released from a 19-year prison sentence. A discussion with filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (Seminole) and actor Rondeaux (Crow/Cheyenne) follows.


As part of the National Museum of the American Indian’s Veterans Day observation, Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a presentation by the Native American Women Warrior Honor Guard in the Potomac Atrium. More information about Veteran's Day events at the museum is available.

“Native Fine Art in Motion: Process and Production” will be presented at the National Museum of the American Indian Nov. 14–23, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Three master artists of the Northwest Coast each produce and item of dance regalia, showcasing the complexities of creating fine art rooted in tradition.


Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a gallery tour of George Catlin paintings Friday, Nov. 25, at 1:30 p.m. The tour looks at Catlin’s life and his art during the time of westward expansion. Catlin went out to the Plains to document the peoples he feared would soon disappear.


On Friday, Nov. 11, The National Museum of the American Indian will open “For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw.” Kiowa photographer, Horace Poolaw, began recording Native visual history in the mid-1920s and continued for the next 50 years. This exhibition is based on the Poolaw Photography Project, a research initiative established in 1989 at Stanford University and carried on by Native scholars Nancy Marie Mithlo (Chiricahua Apache) and Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk).

All American Indian Heritage month programs at the Smithsonian are subject to change. Unless otherwise indicated, Smithsonian Heritage Month programs are free. For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month programs, visit or email For general Smithsonian information, the public may call 202-633-1000.

# # #