Mashantucket Pequot Museum Library and Archives Blog

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving Thanks: Thoughts on Native Thanksgivings from the Children’s Library

November…Native Americans…Thanksgiving Day…Why do these terms seem to go together? Native people and their stories should not be relegated to the fall season-whether in curriculum, text books or storytimes. Not only do the original inhabitants of this land give thanks many times throughout the year, they and others have created a growing body of children’s literature which can and should be read throughout the year and across the curriculum.

“It is our view that, with the possible exception of classroom visits by American Indian people, excellent children’s literature is the most effective way to counter deeply held stereotypes and help children focus on similarities among people as well as cultural differences. The literature serves as a catalyst to extend related activities into other areas of the curriculum.”

Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms, by Guy W. Jones (Hunkpapa Lakota) and Sally Moomaw, published by Redleaf Press, 2002, p.xii.

To assist people in finding “excellent literature,” the Children’s Library has lists of many books written by American Indians, about themselves and their lives. These materials are important as they provide teachers, parents and children with more accurate information about the cultures, values and beliefs of many tribal nations and people. The books and videos present information not only about the importance of celebrations to Native communities today, but also about the depth and significance of traditional Native gatherings.

Powwows and socials are among the Native American gatherings held throughout the United States and Canada when people come together to celebrate their common heritages and unique cultures. Whether large or small, indoors or outside, powwows are celebrations with dancing, food, crafts, contests, family and friends. Summertime gatherings such as Strawberry Thanksgiving and the Green Corn Festival draw Native people together after having been separated by a long winter. Fall brings harvest celebrations and winter is a time for storytelling. Native American seasonal celebrations play an important role in the reaffirmation of cultures, traditions and communities both in the past and today. We recommend using books on our online bibliographies, including Selected Materials about Native American Thanksgivings, to expand knowledge and understanding of Native cultures.

Teachers, here are some books which will help you update your lesson plans about thanksgiving celebrations and encourage use of Native American materials every month of the year.

Many Thanksgivings: Teaching Thanksgiving-Including the Wampanoag Perspective. The Boston Children’s Museum, 2002.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac (Abenaki). National Geographic Society, 2001.

Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective, by Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), Beverly Slapin and Carolyn Silverman (Cherokee/Blackfeet). Oyate, 1995.

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