The month of November is Native American Heritage Month. It’s so important to make sure that what we share with students is authentic, appropriate and open to non-tribal members. There are some great resources out there to help those of us who are not indigenous navigate teaching our students.

Know Before You Go

  • Present music from a specific tribe, not lumped together. If you don’t know what specific tribe a song or folk legend comes from, make sure you tell the kids that and not label it as generic.
  • Reach out to local tribes. They can help with resources, telling you what is appropriate for non-tribal members to perform/teach, and education on their specific tribe.
  • There may be specific places that can help you learn more about the tribe. When I was in college I worked at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mt. Pleasant, MI. As part of my hiring process, The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan requires employees to visit their cultural center and museum located across the street from the Casino. If an exhibit, museum or other educational resources exist for your local tribe(s), I highly recommend a trip. This was a very enlightening experience. The Cultural Center can be found here:

    NOTE: Since I have referenced CMU and I know the team name comes under fire some times, I want to point out that Central Michigan University and The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan have a good working relationship. The tribe continues to support CMU’s use of Chippewa as the school team name. They also partner in educational endeavors at a benefit to both organizations.
  • Make sure you have permission. Some music is not allowed to be performed by non-tribal members.
  • Look for or invite culture bearers to your classroom. Michelle McCauley, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, is a music educator who works to educate. Check out this article she wrote from Decolonizing the Music Room for more information about teaching Native American works and music.
  • Check your visuals for authenticity. If you cannot be authentic, it’s better to skip them.

Get Started

  • Michelle McCauley’s YouTube Channel – she’s got great videos about teaching Native American music in the classroom.
    I recommend starting with her Intro video.
  • – Large listening library. Has recordings, history, and resources.
  • Native American Music Awards – A great place to look for current Native American artists as well as information.
  • Indigenous Music Awards – Another great place to look for current Native American artists.
  • American Indian Band Music – a sight featuring the works of Brent Michael Davids, a Native American band composer. Check out the Resources tab.
  • Moving Within the Circle – (Affiliate link – I get a small kickback, but it doesn’t change your price. No pressure!) A collection of social songs, dances and flute songs. Written by Bryan Burton (Caddo, Choctaw, and European descent) and taught directly by to him by group members from several tribes.
  • Resources from Martha Redbone published by Carnegie Hall. A Cherokee/Choctaw/Shawnee/African American teacher and performer.
  • SRO Artists – More from Martha as a performer.
  • Some lessons from the National Arts Centre of Canada – lessons include dance, the stick game song and listening activities
  • This wonderful Google Doc compiled by Rebecca which lists several Smithsonian Folkways lessons (you know how much I love them) as well as books, lessons online and ensemble music. (Shared with permission)
  • Smithsonian Institute – pictures of authentic instruments and recordings.
  • Smithsonian Folkways – search for recordings and lesson plans
  • A course for grades 3-5 by Music Workshop Edu 
  • Resource from The Perpich Center for Arts Education
  • A song to teach (with permissions given). (Bonus – if you are in Michigan, this is about the water around Lake Superior)

A few Indigenous Musicians to Check Out

  • R. Carlos Nakai – a Navajo-Ute flute player with a substantial repertoire, and several accolades for his work including an honorary Doctorate from Northern Arizona University, The Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and Grammy nominations.
  • Charles Littleleaf is Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs musician, flute maker and teacher based in Oregon.
  • Notorious Cree – James Jones is a traditional hoop dancer and Indigenous influencer. He has a huge TikTok and instagram following and several accolades for his work. Instagram.He offers several different workshops.
  • Prolific the Rapper – Resistance Rap. I’m mind blown. (Some videos contain political statements at the beginning.)
  • A great list put together by PBS including a Spotify playlist.

One More Thing…

If you text (907)312- 5085 with a city and state or zip, they will tell you who’s land you are on. This is a great way to find out what tribal groups were located where your school is and that may help you determine where to start.


I hope that this has been helpful. If you know of other resources that might help out other music teachers, leave a comment!


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