Six Suggestions for Teaching a Historically Balanced Thanksgiving

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We’re not elementary school teachers (except Shannon, who actually has a BA in Education, and used to be an elementary school teacher), but most of us ARE Native American, so we compiled a brief list of recommendations for those of you who perpetuate Thanksgiving stereotypes and/or rely on Disney features for US history lessons. Please pass on to someone who needs it…

Try to balance your historical frame of reference. Many people see Native Americans as existing only a “long time ago.”

DO NOT encourage children of Native ancestry to wear a “warbonnet,” “headdress,” etc. to “celebrate” the season or Thanksgiving holiday. (NOTE: this actually happened to one of us in elementary school on the east coast where Pueblo Indians are not indigenous to the region.)

Understand, remember, and teach students that Native Americans are not unilaterally the same; e.g. we have different languages, beliefs, customs, way of dress, ceremonies, and diets.

Perhaps you may elect to teach about a tribe in your region, or at least a specific Nation, Tribe, or Pueblo, so as not to perpetuate stereotypes.

You may elect to teach about the cultural differences between Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos; e.g. architectural/dwelling (Pueblos built in adobe dwellings), agricultural tools, pottery methods/tools, etc.

Consider focusing on the concept of “being thankful,” rather than the traditional (and sometimes offensive) stereotype found on greeting cards, elementary school wall posters, etc. regarding Pilgrim and Native iconography.

PS – Don’t even get us started on Pocahontas…