Nurturing SEL Skills Through Indigenous Peoples’ Day Conversations with Youth

Nurturing SEL Skills Through Indigenous Peoples’ Day Conversations with Youth

Indigenous Peoples’ Day aims to recognize and respect the diverse cultures and traditions of Native Americans, First Nations, and Indigenous communities. It promotes awareness of the historical injustices, displacement, and discrimination that Indigenous peoples have faced and continues to confront. Many cities and states in the United States and other countries have officially adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day to acknowledge the rich heritage and ongoing contributions of Indigenous peoples.

SEL skills can help young people engage in meaningful conversations about Indigenous peoples’ history, culture, and contributions while fostering a sense of social responsibility. Here’s how you can incorporate SEL competencies into your discussion:


  • Encourage youth to reflect on their own cultural backgrounds and biases. Ask them to consider how their personal experiences and beliefs might shape their perceptions of Indigenous peoples.
  • Discuss the importance of recognizing and acknowledging one’s emotions when learning about sensitive topics like colonization, discrimination, or historical trauma.


  • Teach youth strategies to manage their emotions during difficult discussions, such as deep breathing or taking breaks when needed.
  • Guide them in setting personal goals for their learning journey, such as understanding Indigenous history better or challenging stereotypes.

Social Awareness:

  • Promote empathy by sharing personal stories or experiences of Indigenous individuals or communities. Highlight the diversity among Indigenous cultures and their resilience.
  • Explore historical and contemporary issues Indigenous communities face, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and addressing systemic inequities.

Relationship Skills:

  • Encourage open and respectful communication when discussing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Emphasize the value of active listening and asking questions to understand others’ perspectives.
  • Facilitate group discussions, role-playing, or collaborative activities to build positive relationships and teamwork among the youth.

Responsible Decision-Making:

  • Help youth understand the significance of making informed and ethical choices when it comes to topics related to Indigenous peoples.
  • Discuss the potential impact of their actions on Indigenous communities and the importance of advocating for justice and equity.

Cultural Competence:

  • Introduce Indigenous voices and perspectives through literature, art, music, and guest speakers. Show the richness of Indigenous cultures beyond stereotypes.
  • Encourage youth to explore and learn from Indigenous sources and scholars to better understand Indigenous history and contemporary issues.

Social Responsibility:

  • Encourage youth to take action in support of Indigenous causes, such as advocating for Indigenous rights or participating in cultural exchange programs.
  • Discuss the role of allyship and the importance of standing up against discrimination and racism.


Remember that creating a safe and inclusive discussion space is crucial, and it’s okay to acknowledge that you may not have all the answers. Invite Indigenous voices and community members to share their perspectives and experiences to enrich the conversation. SEL competencies can help young people engage in respectful and empathetic dialogues about Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Additional Resources to help with conversations:

How to Support Young Learners in Racially Diverse Classrooms | Edutopia

 8 Ways to Encourage Youth Inclusivity and Diversity | Camp Fire (

How Culture, Diversity, and Prior Experiences Can Influence Positive Youth Development |

More to explore

Commemorate and Champion MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day presents a platform to nurture empathy, critical thinking, and a sense of social responsibility among youth. Begin by exploring the

New Year; New Resolution

Make this year count by helping youth center resolutions around their emotional well-being.  Introduce mindfulness techniques like deep breathing exercises, guided meditations, or simple moments

The Magic of an SEL Christmas

Talking about Santa can be a magical way to improve your young child’s SEL skills. Here are conversations you can start having today. Santa embodies