How to talk to kids about Thanksgiving

When I was in third grade, our school class celebrated thanksgiving by disguising themselves as pilgrims and Native Americans. We made feathers to stick on the headbands and cut the frank into paper bags at the grocery store. We smiled and sat down to eat snacks, as they did in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, right?

Needless to say, Thanksgiving has a much more complicated history. Children are intelligent and knowledgeable, and I am amazed at how eager they are for nuance and critical thinking. Last week, I approached three thinkers and completed a guide to teach children thanksgiving (please weigh them in the comments as well!) …

First, keep questioning and open.
Everyone is excited to eat turkey and cake, but it’s important not to ignore the difficult history of giving thanks. “There was NO such happy meal; it’s time to put these things to bed. ‘ Traci Sorell, author of children’s books and a Cherokee Nation-registered citizen, told me over the phone. “It doesn’t make sense to keep these false narratives. Who is this good for? Our kids look at us and say, why are they teaching me this? Why would you put students in vests and face paints and these stereotypes that have nothing to do with the reality of the real historical event? We know who is benefiting: it is raising whiteness and it should not be there in 2021. ”

Now, let’s make things clear. What really happened in 1621?
Here is a basic summary as I understand it: The pilgrims, many of whom were fleeing religious persecution in England, arrived in North America in 1620. In the first winter in Massachusetts, half died of malnutrition, disease, and cold weather. They met the Wampanoag Tribe, experts on the ground but struggling. After European travelers fought slavery and assassination, their tribe was recently devastated by deadly plagues brought from Europe.

Although many of his people opposed it, Chief Wampanoag sought to form military alliances with English settlers in Massasoit (also called Sachem Ousamequin). In April 1621 he signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims, and the people of Wampanoag taught the pilgrims how to hunt, fish, graze and cultivate, which resulted in a successful harvest.

The relationship was mostly peaceful at first, but as time went on, the English moved into the Wampanoag lands. In 1675, a war broke out between the English settlers and a confederation of native tribes in New England. The people were burned to the ground, more than forty percent They killed the population of the Wampanoag tribe, and sold many Native Americans as slaves. Since then, Native Americans have continued to discriminate, eliminate, break covenants, and systematically remove Native Americans from their land.

So how do we talk to kids about Thanksgiving?
When you teach kids about history, you want to be the right age. “For younger children, you can redirect a conversation of gratitude about what you appreciate as a family; three-year-olds don’t have to know horrible details, ”says Bob Peterson, the magazine’s founder. Rethinking schools, co-editor Rethinking Columbus and a former fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Milwaukee Public School. For children about five or six, Peterson suggests sharing something like this: “The Wampanoag people lived in Massachusetts, but they came from Europe and took their lands, and it wasn’t fair.” Then, of course, older children can learn a deep history.

We can also teach children of all ages to question what they are learning. “Since I was a child, I used to ask my children, ‘Why is this holiday called Thanksgiving? What were people talking about? What is the other part of this story that isn’t usually told?'” Says Sachi Feris, the mother of three children and the website creators. Raising race-conscious children.

Can we come together at the Thanksgiving meal to acknowledge the violent history and current inequality?
As I learned more and more, I wondered if we should skip the day to give thanks. In 1970, the United States of America in New England proclaimed Thanksgiving a National Day of Mourning. But other Native Americans and allies celebrate the holiday in a long cultural tradition of thanksgiving. “Cherokees are taught to be grateful every day, every season, all year round” Sister he told me.

Focusing on gratitude and awareness can be a good approach. “Instead of skipping Thanksgiving, the most important thing for me is to talk about it and get kids involved in this process of critical thinking,” she says. Feris. “They can be media detectives who consume children, and Thanksgiving is part of that.”

After giving thanks, how can we keep our children learning and growing?

* I am eager to read more children’s books with Native American characters, for example We appreciate: Otsaliheliga By Traci Sorell and an illustration by Frané Lessac; If you live in Plimouth during Thanksgiving By Chris Newell and illustrated by Winona Nelson; Native American Children Today By Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder; and We are protectors of water Illustrated by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goad.

* Look at what land we live in Native Land Digital, and children can learn about the tribes that live in the area today. “At our school, we do a land survey at the beginning of our school board meetings,” Peterson says; Land recognition Thanksgiving can be a great, or common, family tradition.

* If your child asks questions that you are not sure how to answer, you can always say that you will do some research and come back to them. (I do this with this sex and consensus lectures as well).

* And, of course, discuss history, race, and privileges throughout the year. “Talk about current groups that are not protected by children; think of communities that are constantly denied privileges, ”he says Feris. “These interviews are not a temporary option. There is a need for constant questioning.”

Thoughts? How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? What other thoughts or ideas do you have? If you’re Native American, how do you feel about the holidays? “It gives me hope to see how committed young people are,” Sorell says. “Our kids deserve better.”

PS Raising race-conscious children, and our Race Matters column.

(Photo by Sean Locke / Stocksy.)

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