Exploring Native American Heritage and Culture Through Images

November 22, 2021

Using the Nativestock Collection in Britannica ImageQuest

November is Native American Heritage Month. High-quality images are an invaluable tool to deepen students’ understanding of Native American culture, traditions, and ethnicity this month and throughout the school year. In collaboration with Nativestock Pictures, Britannica ImageQuest offers close to 5,000 rights-cleared images on Native American ethnicity and culture. 

In conjunction with texts and other media, the collection facilitates teaching Early American and Modern American history in a unique and engaging way, with images of Native American traditional culture as well as modern Native lifestyles. The Nativestock collection available through ImageQuest empowers educators with access to primary source materials that accurately reflect Native American life, a critical tool for understanding the role of Native Americans in our shared history.

How to Use the Nativestock Collection in Britannica ImageQuest in Classroom Instruction

Easily integrate these images into your lessons to encourage meaningful connections, to help students learn more about Native American culture, and to better understand the impact of Native people in history. 

Use the collection in your classroom to:

  1. Strengthen social and emotional learning (SEL) skills so that students recognize the feelings and perspectives of others and can identify and manage emotions and behavior
  2. Improve critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, especially those related to citing evidence, summarizing, and building vocabulary
  3. Promote media literacy skills with curriculum-relevant digital materials
  4. Provide students with practice opportunities with higher-level research skills, such as keyword searching, filtering, and building citations
  5. Prompt students with focused questions that encourage further research and investigation

Sample questions to ask students about this collection of Native American images:

  1. What do you see, what do you think about this image, what do you wonder about the image?
  2. What connections are you able to make between the image and your life? How are the things in the image familiar to you? How are they different from what you are used to?
  3. When and where do you think this image was taken? Why do you think this image was taken? 

Have your thoughts or perspective been changed or challenged after examining this image? If so, describe how.

Native American Heritage Month Classroom Activities

  • Have students research and recreate items of significance to Native Americans. Students can share their “artifacts” and discuss creating them. Be sure to pair this with lessons on the significance of various Native American objects and traditions, as well as their lasting impact in American culture.
  • Have students create letters, brochures, and other artifacts to discuss their thoughts and feelings about different eras of American history. Using material from archives and collections that incorporate primary and secondary sources, students further their understanding of Native Americans in context. Encourage dialogue between students about how Native Americans have been portrayed throughout history. This provides opportunities to add more voices to classroom discussions and to develop a richer appreciation of oral traditions.
  • Assign literature by Native American authors. Allow students to reflect on their reading and their knowledge of Native American people to strengthen understanding of Native American literature, culture, and traditions. Provide opportunities for students to engage with Native American voices both orally and in writing. 
  • Teach using “big questions.” Have students research and develop their understanding of complex issues in history and how they persist today. Students can present research visually. This allows the classroom community to relate lessons about Native Americans to challenges we face today, such as land and property ownership, immigration and reparations. 

To find even more age-appropriate activities visit the National Indian Education Association.

Important Considerations When Teaching Native American Culture and History

The Nativestock Collection in ImageQuest enhances classroom activities for Native American Heritage Month and beyond. When using the images in discussion, there are a few important considerations.

Be specific with language. Many myths that persist around Native Americans come from generalizations about people. Support students with identifying terminology that is both respectful and consistent. The Native Governance Center provides a helpful collection of terms here

Use terms, images, and representations respectfully and appropriately.

Avoid generalizations about the Native American experience. Highlighting cultural differences and celebrating the full range of tribal identities is important in understanding the effects of different actions and policies. 

Make connections. Encourage students to find things they have background knowledge about in their own communities to make deeper connections between classroom content and the real world. 

Be accurate and specific. Help students learn the names of Native American tribes and individuals in your lessons.

Make it local. Assist students with researching local Native American tribes and exploring the impact of Native people in their communities. This is also a time to build lasting partnerships with organizations, museums, and universities. 

With your ImageQuest subscription, you have instant access to nearly 5,000 images from the Nativestock Collection.

Please note, you must be logged in to ImageQuest to access the link.


Learn more about Britannica ImageQuest and how to get ImageQuest in your school

If you are a current ImageQuest customer, visit our ImageQuest Resource Center