What to Do If Your Kid's School Does A Sh*t Job Teaching Thanksgiving
Having not been in elementary school for some time, it shocked me to realize that we are still lying to kids about Thanksgiving. In particular, the treatment of American Indians continues to be beyond problematic.
Children are being told that it's OK to turn a culture into a costume, and the way most schools drastically misrepresent the relationship between indigenous people and the pilgrims is dangerous. For those who think that I'm just some liberal who can't take a joke, keep in mind that how we represent a people affects how people see them. By setting it up that American Indians were people of the past, we instantly turn them into the "other," a lesser grouping.
This, of course, does nothing to address the inconsistencies with the real history of the first Thanksgiving. The feast wasn't brought together by altruism and friendship, but rather ill-preparedness of Europeans who were starving and resorted to thievery, grave-robbing, and murder. The thanks that was being given was in the successful genocide of 700 Pequot Indians.
Clearly these are harsh realities. I understand why we don't explicitly address them all with children. As a parent, the last thing I want my young child faced with is the concept of hate and death. However, since it is a national holiday, it's important to find a way to address Thanksgiving and American Indian culture without relying on prejudiced literature and antiquated methodology.
Here are some books you can read and activities that you can do with your child that will educate, inspire, and address what the Thanksgiving holiday should really be about.
Letters From the New World
Slightly older kids will love reading these fictional letters between a pilgrim girl and American Indian boy. Great for long car rides to grandmother's house, these touching stories will provide a beautiful perspective for young minds.
Help Make American Indian Perspectives Commonplace
Beyond having children read books that more accurately represent our history, we can help make the perspective of American Indian authors, musicians, comedians, and artists more commonplace. This is a helpful list of resources for children and adults who want to become more aware of modern and historical American Indian narratives.
Volunteer Your Time and Goods
In trying to make Thanksgiving about more than problematic history, teach your children early-on the benefits of volunteerism. Besides the traditional soup kitchen or homeless shelters, consider using Volunteer Match to find a local organization with American Indian ties.
Don't Be Afraid to Address The Truth
Yes, addressing a violent history with young minds needs to be proceeded with caution. However, it's important to remember that abstaining from the truth entirely is essentially lying. Getting educational literature to be more reflective of American Indian perspectives will take time, and until that happens it's part of our job as parents to fill in the gaps. It's not revisionist history, and we're not erasing the hard existence of early European settlers by addressing the reality that American Indians had to endure. By giving our children a more well-rounded perspective, even at a young age, we are teaching them that other voices and histories are equally valid.