Native American Heritage Month

Native Americans

During Native American Heritage Month (November), we pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans, the first Americans. Missouri’s original inhabitants were peoples from several tribes, including Chickasaw, Illini, Ioway, Missouri (our state’s namesake), Osage, Otoe, and Quapaw. Missouri’s Native American roots are centuries old and remain a significant part of our state’s unique identity. Discover the story of early Native Americans in our area, even before Missouri became a state in 1821, through objects, including stone tools, arrowheads, beadwork, and clothing on display in the Missouri State Museum on the first floor of the State Capitol. Admission is free.

Today, more than 72,000 Missourians identify their race, either entirely or in part, as American Indian/Alaska Native. One way to protect our history is to prevent others from discriminating Missourians who belong to the Native American community. In fact, the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) protects all Missourians from adverse treatment because of their race or ancestry and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR), a state agency, enforces the MHRA and investigates complaints made by persons who believe they have been discriminated against in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation. If you suspect you have been discriminated against due to your race or another protected category, contact MCHR at 877-781-4236 or take this quick assessment to determine if the MHRA applies to your situation.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by exploring these sites, activities, and events in our state:

"Missouri" is a Siouan Indian word defined as "town of the large canoes," "wooden canoe people," or "he of the big canoe." Set afloat in your own canoe on one of Missouri’s many scenic waterways.

Were your ancestors Native Americans? Research your family tree at the National Archives, Central Plains Region in Kansas City, which houses various records from 12 tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, census rolls, land allotment files, and more.

The Heart of America Indian Center in Kansas City opens its doors to the public at 6:30 pm, Wednesday, November 16, for Culture Night, a free community gathering showcasing American Indian food (potluck), storytelling, a beading activity, and a movie with an American Indian theme. Call 816-421-7608 for details.

Imagine 18th century Osage village life in what is now a peaceful hilltop spot in Walker, Missouri, that once was home to up to 3,000 Native peoples and about 200 lodges. Osage Village State Historic Site features a trail and outdoor exhibits that help visitors visualize the former community. Print a site map and walking tour to enhance your time at this state park.

Take a subterranean adventure! Osage Indians were the first to discover a cavern they called “The Devil’s Den,” which, hundreds of years later, is one of the state’s most visited underground attractions, Marvel Cave.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City features a new suite of American Indian galleries honoring the artistic achievement of Native peoples from across North America. Discover pottery, basketry, quill and beadwork, textiles, painting, and sculpture in 6,100 square feet of galleries, among the largest devoted to American Indian art in any comprehensive art museum in the world.

Several Missouri State Parks preserve sites of historic importance related to Native American cultures, including Towosahgy State Historic Site in East Prairie, Missouri, where visitors can view earthen mounds built by Mississippian peoples living in Missouri between 1000 and 1400 C.E.; excavation sites at Iliniwek Village State Historic Site in modern-day Wayland, Missouri, where 8,000 Indians of the Illinois tribe once thrived; and Trail of Tears State Park, in Jackson, where, in 1838 and 1839, thousands of Cherokee peoples crossed the Mississippi River in a forced migration from their native lands to the then newly-created Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.