Skip to main content
Font size options
Increase or decrease the font size for this website by clicking on the 'A's.
Contrast options
Choose a color combination to give the most comfortable contrast.

Native American and Indigenous Heritage

Welcome to our celebration of the heritage and culture of Native American and Indigenous peoples! Explore our library events, films, short stories, poems, and other print and digital resources, and engage with the rich histories, diverse cultures, and important contributions of Native and Indigenous peoples. We also invite you to reflect on the experiences and aspirations of close to 24,000 Native residents in Prince George’s County and nearly 60,000 American Indians living in Maryland.

Paula Gunn Allen

Paula Gunn Allen

As a scholar and literary critic, Paula Gunn Allen (1939-2008) worked to encourage the publication of Native American literature and to educate others about its themes, contexts, and structures. Having stated that her convictions can be traced back to the woman-centered structures of traditional Pueblo society, she was active in American feminist movements and in antiwar and antinuclear organizations until her retirement in the 1990s.

Learn More

Notah Ryan Begay, III

Notah Ryan Begay, III

Notah Begay is the only full-blooded Native American to ever play on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour. A solid golfer, Begay is conscious of his image as a role model for Native American children. One highlight of his young career was being a member of the President's Cup team in 2000. However, a back injury sabotaged his career plans and he is now an analyst for Golf Channel and NBC Sports.

Learn More

Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench

The name Johnny Bench is synonymous with baseball catcher. When Bench came on the Major League Baseball scene in 1968 with the Cincinnati Reds, he became the first catcher ever to win the National League Rookie of the Year award by showing fans what a good catcher can be, both behind the plate and at bat. With his keen eyesight, strong throwing arm, great agility, and savvy working relationship with pitchers, Bench was a defensive force who set records for playing a hundred or more games in thirteen consecutive seasons. Although he developed new catching and throwing postures that made him very effective and helped prevent injury, he still played with injuries to his feet, hands, and back. On the other side of the plate, cleanup hitter Bench could muscle the ball into the outfield and over the fence. Bench finished his career in 1983 with a then-record (for a catcher) 389 home runs. All told, Bench was a pivotal cog in the workings of what became known as Cincinnati's Big Red Machine.

Learn More

Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford

The University of Oklahoma recruited Sam Bradford to be a backup quarterback. In 2008, however, Bradford took a back seat to no one as he received the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the United States. Bradford, the first Native American to win the trophy in 38 years, also led the Sooners to the national championship game. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and became their starting quarterback, but knee injuries in 2013 and 2014 ended both seasons for Bradford.

Learn More

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich

Once named one of People magazine's most beautiful people, Louise Erdrich was a Native American writer with a wide popular appeal as a poet and children's author, as well as a novelist. She was no literary lightweight, however, having been compared to such noted American authors as William Faulkner. She was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in 2001 for her book The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and received the award in 2012 for The Round House.

Learn More

Graham Greene

Graham Greene

After achieving fame as Kicking Bird in Kevin Costner's 1990 film Dances with Wolves, actor Graham Greene found himself frequently accosted by admirers. "The other day, some lady came up and said 'I know you must get this all the time, but you look remarkably like that man in Dances with Wolves,'" he told Brian D. Johnson in Maclean's in 1991. "I said: 'Yes, I do get it all the time, and frankly it's annoying. I work at the post office, ma'am.'" Apparently Greene's acting was good enough to convince her.

Learn More

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Native American Joy Harjo (born 1951) is a multi-faceted writer, artist, and musician. Trained first as a painter, Harjo shifted her attention to poetry during her undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico. Of Muscogee Creek heritage, Harjo often draws on Native American spirituality and culture in her work, spotlighting feminist concerns and musical themes as well. Harjo has taught at the University of Colorado, the University of Arizona, and the University of New Mexico and has written several television scripts and screenplays. She has been honored with numerous awards and fellowships for her writing and music. She published a memoir, Crazy Brave, in 2013. In 2019, Harjo was named United States Poet Laureate, making her the first Native American to earn the title.

Learn More

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown Harjo (born 1945) is one of the leading Native American activists in the United States. She has raised public awareness about issues of concern to Native Americans by working on legislation to protect their rights, preserve their languages and traditions, reduce their high levels of poverty, alcoholism and unemployment, and safeguard their sacred lands. She fought for nearly 20 years to remove disparaging names from sports teams, most particularly the Washington Redskins.

Learn More

Diane Humetewa

Diane Humetewa

Diane J. Humetewa is an American attorney and professor. In 2013 President Barack Obama nominated Humetewa to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for Arizona and in May of 2014 she was confirmed by the Senate. She is the first Native American woman to serve in a federal court. Humetewa previously served as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona from 2007 to 2009.

Learn More

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller was the first woman ever to serve as chief of the Cherokee nation. She assumed that post in December 1985, when the tribe's former chief, Ross Swimmer, left to become assistant secretary of the interior for Indian affairs. As deputy principal chief under Swimmer, Mankiller automatically assumed tribal leadership following Swimmer's departure. With 67,000 members, the Cherokees was the second largest Native American tribe at the time of her appointment to chief. Of the approximately five hundred tribes in the United States, less than fifty are headed by women, and none of the other female-led tribes as large as the Cherokee tribe. As chief, Mankiller presided over 45,000 acres of Cherokee land in Oklahoma, the state that has been home to the Cherokee people since 1839. (The Cherokees originally inhabited an area that is now part of six southeastern states, but they were forced by the federal government to relocate to what is now northern Oklahoma.)

Learn More

Russell Means

Russell Means

Russell Means (born 1939) led the American Indian Movement (AIM) in a 1973 armed seizure of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of the previous massacre of Sioux by Seventh U.S. Cavalry troops on December 29, 1890. With co-leaders Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier, Means and AIM held off hundreds of federal agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation for seventy-one days before their surrender.

Learn More

N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday (born 1934) is recognized as one of the premier writers in the United States. In 1969 his novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He taught at the university level for many years and even at the age of 80 served as a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico.

Learn More

Montezuma II, Emperor of Mexico

Montezuma II

Montezuma II (1466-1520) was the ninth ruler of the Aztec Empire in present-day Mexico. In the sixteenth century he was seized by the Spanish conquistadores, who used him to control and rule the empire.

Learn More

Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton

"Pound for pound, day for day, Wayne Newton is the highest-paid cabaret entertainer ever," writes Robert Windeler in People magazine. Newton graced the stages of Las Vegas resort casinos for decades, performing two high-energy shows per night, seven nights a week, as many as 40 weeks per year. "Nostalgia fans remember Newton as a pudgy, baby-faced, adenoidal tenor with three big hits: 'Heart,' 'Danke Schoen,' and 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady,'" notes Betsy Carter in Newsweek. "Today, Newton has ... cultivated a silky baritone and outfitted himself in sequined cowboy suits--an image that has earned him the Las Vegas billing of 'The Midnight Idol.'... His mellow blend of pop, rhythm-and-blues, country and rock wins no fewer than five ovations each night from the predominantly middle-aged, Middle American audience." Esquire contributor Ron Rosenbaum observes that Newton "has built an entertainment empire out of what was once a lounge act, transformed himself into a Tom Jones-type sex symbol, [and] become the highest-grossing entertainer in Las Vegas history" because he "has somehow captured and concentrated, become an emblem of, the essence of Vegasness."

Learn More

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich was an Alaskan native who fought for equal rights in Alaska. She addressed the Alaskan Territorial Senate to chide members who were against an antidiscrimination bill, which passed in 1945. After many years as an activist, Peratrovich died of cancer. Alaskans observe a day dedicated to her memory each February.

Learn More



Powhatan (ca. 1550-1618) was chief of a confederation of Algonquian peoples in Virginia at the time of the British colonization of Jamestown.

Powhatan was the son of a chief reportedly driven from Florida by the Spaniards. Settling in Virginia, the chief soon conquered about five local tribes and confederated them under his leadership. Powhatan inherited this confederacy and continued to conquer other tribes so that, by the time of the colonization of Jamestown, he ruled about 30 tribes made up of some 8,000 people.

Learn More

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson became a professional musician in 1959, when he began playing guitar with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in juke joints and dives all across North America. Six years later, before thousands of fans, he was backing Bob Dylan as the folkie was making his transition to electric. By then the Hawks were known simply as the Band and were soon creating their own powerful originals. After another tour with Dylan, the Band decided to call it quits in 1976 and Robertson began working in movies, both acting and scoring soundtracks, while remaining relatively behind the scenes for nearly a decade. In 1987 he released his first solo LP, proving that his songwriting and guitar abilities were stronger than ever. The Band was inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame in 2014. Robertson, one of two surviving members at the time, accepted the honor in his home country.

Learn More

Will Rogers

Will Rogers

One of the most celebrated humorists and public figures of his day, Will Rogers (1879-1935) offered dry, whimsical commentaries on a plethora of political, social, and economic issues. His aphoristic, satirical observations, which he voiced in magazine articles and nationally syndicated columns, revealed the foibles and injustices of American society and reaffirmed the humorist's role as the voice of the "average" citizen.

Learn More

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie

One of the most striking voices of the contemporary folk music movement of the 1960s, Buffy Sainte-Marie has enjoyed a career far broader than the "protest singer" category into which she has sometimes been placed. She has written and lectured on Native American affairs, written poetry and screenplays, and composed film scores, as well as writing, recording, and performing songs in styles ranging from folk to rock and from art song to electronic music. But while she has become known for love songs like "Until It's Time for You to Go," Sainte-Marie has never abandoned the social and political concerns that marked her early work. And though she resists the label of "protest song," she admitted to Paul Sexton of Billboard, "The only reason I ever became a singer in the first place was because I had something to say." She still had something to say in 2015 when she released her album Power in the Blood.

Learn More

Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Silko (born 1948) is one of the foremost authors to emerge from the Native American literary renaissance of the 1970s. She blends western literary forms with the oral traditions of her Laguna Pueblo heritage to communicate Native American concepts concerning time, nature, and spirituality and their relevance in the contemporary world.

Learn More

Wes Studi

Wes Studi

Wes Studi got a relatively late start as a film star. He was about 44 when he landed his first movie. Prior to that career move, the Native American performer had compiled a list of real-life credits that included soldier, reporter and activist. He has gone on to log an array of film appearances in a variety of genres.

Learn More

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief (born 1925) was a world-renowned ballerina and one of the premiere American ballerinas of all time. She was the first American to dance at the Paris Opera and has danced with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Russe, and with the Balanchine Ballet Society (New York City Ballet). Tallchief passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 88.

Learn More

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

American track star and professional football and baseball player Jim Thorpe (1888-1953) was the hero of the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, only to have his gold medals taken from him for professionalism.

James Francis Thorpe (Native American name, Wa-tho-huck or Bright Path) was born south of Bellemonta, near Prague, Oklahoma, on May 28, 1888, the son of Hiran P. Thorpe of Irish and Sac and Fox Indian extraction and Charlotte View of Potowatomi and Kickapoo extraction. Raised with a twin brother, Charlie, on a farm, Thorpe first attended the Sac and Fox Indian Agency school near Tecumseh, Oklahoma, before being sent to the Haskell Indian School near Lawrence, Kansas, in 1898.

Learn More

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa)

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa)

Native American activist and writer of the Sioux tribe Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (1876-1938) was prominent in the Pan-Indian movement of the 1920s and 1930s. She devoted her life to lobbying for the rights of Native Americans.

One of the most outspoken voices raised on behalf of Native Americans during the early twentieth century was that of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a granddaughter of the famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull. As a writer, she produced a number of essays and short stories that established her as a significant figure in Native American literature. Her enduring legacy, however, is that of a reformer and activist devoted to improving the lives of Native Americans both on and off the reservation. Calling upon her skills as an orator, Bonnin made numerous appearances before government officials in Washington and ordinary citizens throughout the nation to draw attention to the plight of Native Americans trapped in poverty and despair.

Learn More

In the United States, the celebration of the history, culture, and traditions of American Indians gained official national recognition when President Ronald Reagan declared November 23-30 as Native American Heritage Week in 1986, and President George H.W. Bush dedicated the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month in 1990. Since 2008, the State of Maryland also celebrates the American Indian Heritage Day on the fourth Friday of November, the day following Thanksgiving, and honors the ongoing relationship that it has with the American Indian community.

Beginning in 2020, our library system also wishes to commemorate the first Native American Day in Prince George’s County. In 2019, the County’s Legislative Branch stated the following: “The native and indigenous peoples of Prince George's County and the United States have significantly contributed to the rich fabric of history and culture we celebrate in our communities and should be rightly recognized. Whether it is the Piscataway-Conoy tribe in the County, or the many Native American tribes indigenous to every region of our nation, recognizing their place as the 'First Americans' is long overdue.” Renaming Columbus Day to Native American Day was celebrated in Prince George’s County for the first time on October 12, 2020.

Therefore, as residents of Prince George’s County, we would like to acknowledge that we gather on the traditional lands of the Mattapanient, the Patuxent, the Piscataway, the Moyaone, the Pamunkey, and the past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations. This calls us to commit to continuing to learn how to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as well.

Show Sources Hide Sources


Thu, Aug 29, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual Branch
Comic anthology "Indiginerds: Tales from Modern Indigenous Life" debuts on August 27, 2024! The Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System present a conversation with "Indiginerds" editor Alina Pete about this important addition to the comics landscape.

Guide to Indigenous MD

Indigenous Peoples of the Chesapeake

Important Dates In Native American History


20,000 B.C.E.

People crossed and inhabited the Bering Land Bridge, which connected Asia and North America before sea levels rose to make the crossing by boat necessary

1000 C.E.

The Thule culture thrives in the arctic using whale skin boats and dog sleds for transportation.



800 C.E.

Mississippian Mound Building culture begins, lasting into the 1500s.

1000-1400 C.E.

Vikings arrived and explore parts of North America encountering Native peoples they refer to as “Skraelings”.




Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca is formed, making a powerful alliance.


Christopher Columbus arrives in the Americas, taking Native prisoners and establishing a precedent for European colonization practices.




Hernando de Soto arrives in the present-day Southeast United States, bringing violence and disease to the area.


The Creek Confederacy forms, consisting of the Creek, Hitchiti and Alabama tribes.




tribes across the Great Plains acquire horses, helping shape their culture.


Pocahontas, the daughter of a Powhatan chief is kidnapped by the English in a prisoner exchange.




The French and Indian Wars begins, in which British American colonists fought against colonists of New France, with both sides supported by their parent countries and Native tribes.


Sequoyah’s finishes his syllabary, a writing system for his native Cherokee language.




The Bureau of Indian Affairs is formed.


Congress passes and President Andrew Jackson signs The Indian Removal Act is passed, starting the long term displacement of Native peoples in the Northeast to Oklahoma territory.




The brutal forced migrations of Native tribes take place, in which many Natives and slaves perish on their way to Indian Territory.  This process comes to be known as the Trail of Tears.


The Battle of Little Bighorn, in which Lakota leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse lead a victorious Native force to resist US encroachment into the Black Hills.




The Homestead Act opens up the west to white settlers, allowing homesteaders to claim tribal land.


The Sand Creek Massacre takes place, in which the US Army surprises and kills 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho, mostly women and children.




The United States buys Alaska from Russia, and eventually instate residential schools in the territory.


The Dawes General Allotment Act breaks up tribal reservation land into family-owned allotment. This led to many impoverished Natives selling of their land and eventually led to the loss of 90 million acres of land.




The spiritual movement called the Ghost Dance begins, eventually garnering negative attention from the U.S. government.


U.S. troops attack a camp at Wounded Knee Massacre in an attempt to stop the Ghost Dance resulting in the deaths of more than 250 members of the Lakota tribe.




Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) becomes the first Native American to medal in the Olympics.


New York celebrates American Indian Day, the first state to do so.




Choctaw soldiers use their language as a secret code during WWI for the United States Army, becoming known as the Code Talkers.


The Indian Citizenship Act grants US citizenships to all Native Americans born in the United States, though voting rights are not given.




Charles Curtis, a Native of mixed descent becomes Vice President, after serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.


Indian Reorganization Act reduces federal interference in Indian Affairs and restores key powers to tribal governments.




The National Congress of Native Americans is founded.

1940's - 1960's

A series of US government policies referred to as the Termination Policy removes recognition and support from tribes and instead encourages complete assimilation of individuals with Native American heritage.




American Indian Movement begins at an intertribal meeting in Minnesota.


Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act come into effect, giving money and land rights to local Native groups.




Indian Self-Determination Act reversed strategies of termination and gave tribes more opportunities for financial support over time with less oversight.


Members of the American Indian Movement lead the Longest Walk, a spiritual journey and protest march for tribal sovereignty.




Wilma Mankiller is elected the first female president of the Cherokee Nation.


“Two Spirit” is adopted as an appropriate label to describe difference in sexual and gender identities in Native Communities.




U.S. Mint issues a dollar coin with the imagine of Sacagawea.


John Bennett Herrington (Chickasaw) becomes the first in space enrolled member of a Native American tribe to travel in space.




the Coquille Indian Tribe becomes the first Indian tribe to publicly enact marriage equality policies.


President Obama signs Native American Apology Resolution.




The Idle No More Movement led by Canadian Indigenous women influences Indigenous environmental protection protests across North America.


#NoDAPL protest begins at Standing Rock Reservation to protest the new pipeline proposal.




The Washington football team begins official talks to change their name and remove slur and associated imagery from their uniforms.


First Native American Day is celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day on Oct 12 in Prince George’s County.




The Cleveland Indians announce that they will change their name to Guardians to discontinue use of outmoded language, a move supported by Native groups.

Work Cited:

Wells, A. (2018). Native American Heritage Timeline 20th – 21st Century. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from

O'Brien, C. (Ed.). (2019). Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Bios: Strong Medicine speaks- Native American elder has her say: An oral history. BIO STRONG
Black Elk: The life of an American Visionary. BIO BLACK ELK
Code Talker: BIO NEZ
You don’t have to say you love me: A memoir BIO ALEXIE

Kanopy Streaming Video


Kanopy is an online video streaming platform with 26,000 movies, doh2cumentaries, and indie and foreign films from over hundreds of producers including The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Kino Lorber, PBS, and thousands of independent filmmakers. Users are limited to 10 videos streamed every month.

Hoopla Streaming Video

Hoopla Digital

Hoopla offers thousands of movies, television shows, and music albums. Borrow up to 6 titles per month for free with your PGCMLS library card.