*This article was originally published on myeducatedstyle.com in 2019.
It’s come to my attention somewhat recently (more recently than it should have, frankly) that what we learn in school about Thanksgiving is inaccurate. In the past two years or so, I’ve made efforts to introduce my kids to accurate history and indigenous perspectives. I wanted to share these alternative Thanksgiving ideas to help inform you and make this transition easier.
This year I went a step further to contact our local school district to inquire about their curriculum surrounding the holiday and its controversial history. I included resources and book recommendations that have been helpful to me.
As I’m writing this, they haven’t yet responded*, but I thought I would share what I’ve learned. I know that if it took me this long, there must be others who need these resources as well.
WHAT PROMPTED THIS?
I’ve been focusing most of my anti-racism and conscious parenting efforts inward. I realize this sounds pretty fragile and oxymoron-ish, but it’s the truth. I was appalled after reading this article. It’s always my place to speak up. The end. About how we teach slavery, alternative Thanksgiving ideas, or anything else.
I EMAILED THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.
I don’t have a reason to believe our school teaches racist, white supremacist history besides the fact that it is an extremely common curriculum around the country (and world). Teaching anti-racist history and current events is even rarer, statistically speaking. Since it’s not clear if anyone else will broach this topic in our town, I did.
Not being indigenous or a teacher myself, I don’t know a lot about elementary curriculum development or what local indigenous people think is appropriate history to teach. I’m not an authority on this subject, they are. So I am using my connection to the school to amplify the indigenous voices in our community about the whitewashing of our history.
Socially Responsible Alternative Thanksgiving Ideas
NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
RACIAL JUSTICE GUIDE TO THANKSGIVING FOR EDUCATORS & FAMILIES
TEACH THE REAL STORY OF THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES ON THANKSGIVING
THANKSGIVING EDUCATION PRINTABLE
Children’s Book Recommendations
Like I mentioned above, I am not indigenous. I do not claim to be super knowledgeable about their perspectives or the inaccurate history we’re teaching. Please let me know if you have more recommendations to add or if any of these are harmful or inaccurate.
I also thought it was relevant to share about land acknowledgment since it’s something new I’ve learned recently. My kids already love nature (don’t all kids?) so this really resonated with them.
Kids are resilient.
If there’s one thing I know about kids is that they’re way smarter than we give them credit for. While there are definitely topics that are not age-appropriate for elementary schoolchildren, they are observant, curious, and compassionate. They can understand things and can accept new information far better than adults. Maybe it’s because they’re much less set in their ways? I’m not sure, but anytime I have brought up a sensitive subject, they’ve been very receptive.
For example, we recently discussed how Eenie Meenie Miney Moe is a song used to make fun of slaves. They were shocked, and immediately wanted to make up a new song to use instead. Tell that to an adult and see how long it takes them to come around. They’ve asked smart, clarifying questions about it a few times since then. And also asked if there were other songs that made fun of people who were different. Moreover, I haven’t heard the song since.
I see part of my role in this anti-racist work is stepping aside to allow other voices to be heard. To show others that you don’t have to ruin childhood memories of a holiday to see it from another perspective. To put knowing better into action. So you know you’re not alone in having those awkward conversations at school meetings or your dining table.
What are some of your alternative Thanksgiving ideas?
*After attending a parent-staff meeting, we were able to effectively get some craft projects changed for next year. While we didn’t address the curriculum on a whole, it was a really beneficial conversation that saw progress!