Same Country Different Nation: More on Native American Culture and Sovereignty

African American Natives-

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Did you know that there are are 573 federally recognized Indian Nations within the United States? Building off of our last blog we will continue discussing the complexity of Native American culture in the United States. With current debates about citizenship, immigration and deportation it is important to point out that Native Americans are indigenous to the US and were on the continent long before European settlement. Yet they have had a troubling history. Social Studies classrooms can be spaces whereby students learn about Native American rights and their right to be a self-governing entity while they are also citizens of the United States. Individuals that live in Western States and other regions with a large Native American presence have a better idea of this unique relationship. But many Americans are not adequately informed about the culture of many of the people groups that are indigenous to North and South America. There is much to learn about this topic in social studies classrooms. A great place to start is to have students learn about specific tribes that have their home right here in the United States. These tribes have their own language, customs, culture, educational system and government structure. These laws are different from that of the state where they reside as well as the United States government. It is also common knowledge that their rights have been repeatedly violated throughout American history. Below we include some resources that might help those who want to do a deeper study of various Native American tribes. We must keep in mind that Native Americans do not have one culture or one way of life, but they are different in many ways.

This particular site contains a List of Native American Indian Tribes and Languages. It contains an alphabetical list of Native American tribes in North America. When one clicks on the name of the tribe the link offers a pretty in-depth study of the indigenous language of the tribe.

The National Congress of American Indians has a site wherein one can learn all of the details and rights of tribal governance. This can be used in the social studies classroom to help students understand the unique standing natives have as citizens of their Indian nation, the state in which they reside and of the US.

This resource is a Clearinghouse of Tribal Constitutions. In other words, it has an extensive list of the constitutions of the Native tribes in the United States divided by state. Students can click on the name of each tribe and go to the full document of their constitution.

Lesson Plans
Tribal Government- ICivics
Native American Cultures Across the U.S.
Indian Pride | Treaties and Sovereignty | Lesson Plan
American Indian Curriculum and Lesson Plans- Bloomington Public Schools
Teaching More About Tribal Sovereignty
AIH-12: American Indian Tribal Sovereignty

Tribal Governance
Native American Cultures
Native American Civil Rights
Native Traditions and Culture

Discussion Questions
1. To what extent have you learned about Native American culture in your k-12 experience? In college?
2. What information surprised you from this article?
3. What are meaningful ways educators can bring more information about native culture into the curriculum?
4. As a teacher how do you see yourself bringing more information about Native Americans into your curriculum.


  1. I never really learned much about Native American culture in k-12. I took an anthropology class and I learned more about it there than I did any other years. 

  2. Even with the facts that Native Americans were here long before European settlement, people still try to argue against that. I’m glad that there are over 500 hundred tribes left but imagine how much more there could have been if our country hadn’t treated them so terribly and constantly taken away their land. It is important that everyone knows the knowledge behind Native Americans. It should be taught in school so that there is no misunderstanding.

  3. Having students learn about the Native Americans that were on the continent before the European settlers. I myself didn’t even know that there were 573 federally recognized Indian Nations within the United States. It is important for students to know the history of all of the cultures in the US especially the Native Americans since there were here before any other settlers. It is also important really important for students to learn that they have their own way of doing things and that they are different in many aspects of everyday life including in their spoken language, customs, culture, educational system and government structure.

  4. I was surprised when I read that there are 573 Indian tribes. I definitely think it’s something that we forget or don’t culturally recognize even though they are such a big part of our history. I remember when my sister lived in Wyoming and Montana and talking about the Indian tribes over there. I didn’t know that many even existed still to this day, which I was think it’s so important to bring this up in Social Studies classes and continue to learn about their important history.

  5. The discussion about Native American history and their treatment by the settlers of the United States is a topic that is brought up often, but as you mentioned in your first line, many people don’t even know that there are people from those same tribes living today. They share many of the same history, culture, and beliefs as those from the past and are one of the last memories we have of our indigenous people. The resources you provided in your article contain many different important details for social studies and provide an excellent starting point for those looking to delve deeper into the topic. As a history minor myself with a love for American and Native American history, I know firsthand that the tact in which we display this information can make or break the discussion, and you have shown a respectful way in which we can start discussing this topic among students. This is an excellent article for anyone looking to broaden their horizons.

  6. The discussion of Native American culture is important to students and the preservatioin of history. There are hundreds of indiginious cultures across the world, and their voices have largely been diminished by the actions of those who colonized the area. Commonly, Americans will believe that our way of life is the “correct” way of life, and we should help those who are “below” us convert. Unfortunately, many Americans see Native Americans as somehow having less culture when that is not the case at all. Their history and culture are just as important, and it should be recognized beyond colonization.

  7. I do not think there is enough education about Native Americans in school. We learn about Native Americans like they are people that lived a long time ago, but we do not acknowledge that these societies still exist. This lack of education results in the misunderstanding and mistreatment of Native Americans today. As teachers, we need to start educating our students on the Native American societies of today, acknowledging that they are indigenous to this land. Without the proper information, it is impossible for people to recognize and fight against the mistreatment of these people.

  8. In my K-12 experience I do not remember learning much about the Native Americans if it was not in relation to learning about the time of pilgrimage. The history of Native Americans and non-Europeans is not a prevalent topic of lessons in K-12 and I think that if is was more of a highlighted topic, people would have more of an understanding that “the wall” cannot keep immigrants out because many of Americans are immigrants and the Native Americans are the true Americans. They were the first people of America, yet they are treated poorly.

  9. The United States of America was founded by immigrants. Immigration is what created this country. However, its sad to think about how the Indian tribes that were already here were, and still are treated. Americans need to realize that we weren’t here first, and they need to be aware of other cultures and nations that are here in the U.S.

  10. It is not only troubling, but simply disturbing to reflect on some of the most recent comments made by our current government officials who have used the following phrase numerous times: “Send her back!” These comments are especially disheartening considering the targets are in fact born US citizens and not immigrants of another country. This is why it is important for America to understand the history of the many different cultures and nations that exist, and always have existed, within the United States.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.