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'Save Indigenous History' offers fun activities that teach kids about history and culture

The cover image of "Save Indigenous History." (Courtesy)
The cover image of "Save Indigenous History." (Courtesy)

Indigenous people preserve their history by telling their own stories. That’s why Ashleigh Thompson and other Indigenous artists curated “Save Indigenous History: An Activity Book for Children.”

The book, intended for third through sixth graders, teaches Native American history and culture to young children through hands-on activities and storytelling.

Thompson is a citizen of the Red Lake Ojibwe tribal nation and director of tribal collaboration in research and education at Archaeology Southwest. Thompson put together the activity book as an introduction for children to issues concerning Native communities.

One of those issues is artifact and site preservation. As looting and vandalism of archeological sites continue to rise, Thompson says she wants children to be aware of how history can be erased or stolen, and become protectors of their culture.

Thompson says she also wants Indigenous children to glean cultural pride and representation from the book as well, something she didn’t have growing up.

“I felt pretty different growing up and I didn’t have a lot of literature or media that represented Indigenous people in a positive way and in a contemporary way,” Thompson says. “For this project, it’s really neat to see both the past and the present embedded in this book for children.”

The book comprises typical workbook activities like mazes and connect the dots. But some of the pages prompt readers to learn from their own community’s history, like one that asks readers to ask an elder to share their story and then draw what they say.

Derrick Gonzalez, a Tohono Oʼodham and Pascua Yaqui artist who contributed to the book, says that there’s a strong link between art and Indigenous history.

“Kids can learn about history and culture through art. When somebody sees a basket or pottery or drawings, they are representing their culture and cultural techniques,” he says. “Art doesn’t just have to be drawing. It could be growing, cooking, doing pottery and baskets.”

Excerpted from “Save Indigenous History: An Activity Book for Children.” All rights reserved.


Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.