Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. They try to give students an accurate picture of what happened in Plymouth in 1621 and explain how that event fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event's Native American participants.
Most texts and supplementary materials portray Native Americans at the gathering as supporting players. They are depicted as nameless, faceless, generic "Indians" who merely shared a meal with the intrepid Pilgrims.
The pamphlet is designed for use in 4th through 8th grade classrooms. It is divided in sections:
- Environment: Understanding the Natural World
- Community: Group Identity in Culture
- Encounters: Effects on Cultures
- Sharing: New Perspectives Year-Round
Each section includes several photographs as well as "Ideas for the Classroom." As I read through it, I was struck by the verb tense.
"Native peoples were and continue to be..."
"The Inupiaq people of Alaska are..."
"The whalers are..."
The Yakama continue to celebrate..."
Download American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving and study it as you prepare for the upcoming month (November).
DO spend time at the Education pages of NMAI. The NMAI staff is working hard at developing materials for teachers.
And, order and use these children's books, too! Here's some:
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Margaret M. Bruchac (Abenaki) and Catherine Grace O'Neill.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp (Mohawk).
The Good Luck Cat, by Joy Harjo
Less than Half, More than Whole, by Michael and Kathleen Lacapa
Muskrat Will be Swimming, by Cheryl Savageau
Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith
What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know about Horses, by Richard Van Camp
Last year, School Library Journal published a list of 30 recommended books: "Native Voices." I introduced and link to the article here.
And if you want to see other things I've written about Thanksgiving, look to the left of this page, scroll down to the section called POSTS ABOUT THANKSGIVING.